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September 22, 2012 | 12:32 p.m. CST
It would be easy enough to poke holes in Dredd, a gory film that isn’t afraid to flaunt its goriness or take liberties with the plot, but what would be the fun in that? The film is exciting enough, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously — and neither should its viewers.
Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is an authority figure in a dystopian America that is beset with crime and general chaos. A judge, like Dredd, is given the power of judge, jury and executioner; they are the only sense of order in this disorderly world. A helmet covers the majority of Dredd’s face for the entire film, but there is the sense that it doesn’t make much of a difference: Urban plays Dredd with a permanent scowl, a tight-lipped and powerful mercenary who doesn’t have much use for vocabulary or facial expression. And yet it is an effective performance: Dredd is fun to root for, and his spare dialogue is often very funny in its straightforwardness.
Dredd is given a trainee, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who is psychic. The two volunteer to investigate a triple-homicide in a massive super-structure called Peach Trees, which houses 75,000 poor citizens and is effectively operated by a gang under the control of Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), who produces and distributes a popular and dangerous time-altering drug, Slo-Mo. From there, it is essentially a bloodbath: Dredd and Anderson must shoot their way out, and they do not hesitate with their triggers. Headey, who is delightfully sinister on ‘Game of Thrones,’ is equally menacing here as the dead-eyed, merciless, relentless Ma-Ma.
Most of the action that takes place in Dredd is the responsibility of the business end of the titular character’s futuristic pistol, and thus it is the star of the film. But there is a definite sense of levity here, a smirk underneath the scowl, a sense of humor beneath the ruthless violence. It’s bloody, but it’s fun.