It’s freshman year: you may (likely) fail a test. Give thanks that the curve, and not a field test with Judge Dredd, will determine your final grade.
In this year’s “Dredd,” a remake of the 1995 Sylvester Stallone charger, a freshman judge named Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby, “Juno”) eludes failure with her psychic ability (Go to office hours) and earns a field test with Judge Dredd, the future’s brand of judge, jury, cop, detective, bounty hunter and on-the-spot executioner. A Rambo among badasses, Dredd patrols a mega-city with his psychic pupil when a routine criminal cleanup lands the pair in the lap of a drug queen-pin whose penchant for violence and control over her crew smack of the Stanford Prison Experiment (Do some psych studies).
Lena Headey plays this ex-hooker drug lady, Ma-Ma, with a heart of coal and a hatefulness equal in kind but greater in degree than her role as Cersei Lannister on HBO’s hit show “Game of Thrones.” Ma-Ma’s death grip over the 200-story residence/drug ring known as Peach Trees will have even the thickest of audience members recoiling in squeamish empathy (Stay on your RF’s good side). Karl Urban carries Judge Dredd with only his forceful voice, for nothing but his chops show, a feat rightfully impressive if only because Olivia Thirlby’s complex female lead convincingly plays off a character whose eyes—window to the soul, mind you!—are never seen. “Dredd” sets aside modest expectations for kill-or-be-killed action bangers in favor of a story tight with suspense and payoffs complemented rather than compensated for by its indulgent use of violence and comedic timing.
Indeed, “Dredd” is no pic for the faint of heart, or for the bitter mind. Those who are sick of routine dystopian justice flicks that flop around on screen like imitation crab stunned to life with a defibrillator will be pleased to find a crisply violent action melee whose inventive techniques for making spectacles of death and pain are rivaled only by its creative display of digital graphics.
In a sea of overdone “Avengers” types and never-ending action series, “Dredd” offers a refreshing spread of high-tech bloodbaths sprinkled with a welcome dash of irreverence.
Sasha Arijanto was a freshman once, when she was Judge’d by Chem 31A. Her psychic ability didn’t help.