I suspect that I first met Judge Dredd when he and Batman shared an adventure in 1991's Judgement on Gotham comic book. Dredd, a character appearing regularly in British comics, was a tough cop struggling to maintain order in a post-apocalyptic future that is equal parts terrifying, satirical, and absurd. Dredd and Batman both share a righteous morality, a utility belt of awesome technology, and a complete lack of any sense of humor, but the two are on opposite ends of the empathy spectrum. Naturally, I was instantly enchanted.
One afternoon in late June 1995, I rode with my friend Mark in his antique truck to the Northlake 8 AMC movie theater in Tucker, GA to buy advance tickets for opening night for the Sylvester Stallone Judge Dredd film. I was a bouncing bundle of pure enthusiasm, and something about that experience in my history has always stuck in my memory. Sorry to say, my memory has lasted far longer than my enthusiasm did. The movie sets and costumes looked good, but beyond the surface, it just didn't turn out to have much to do with the character of Judge Dredd.
After all these years, I felt I owed it to the character to give his new movie, cleverly titled Dredd, a fair shake. I'm pleased to say that the new Dredd movie treats the lawman better this time around. I was the only person in the building at yesterday's 4:30 showing at Newnan's Carmike 10 theater, and I can tell you that 100% of the audience was enthusiastically entertained. I even applauded appreciatively when Karl Urban as Dredd finally yelled "I am the law" the proper way: with his helmet on.
The movie is a small, day-in-the-life action story about what it must be like to be the toughest cop in a very violent world. The limited scope of the story is far more suited to the absurdist crime-story millieu historically associated with the characters than its big-budget predecessor. And though the limited budget did result in more limited costuming and visual effects (no robots or flying cars!), it added to a more claustrophobic environment which should be expected in Mega-City One, population 800 million.
The film may not have restored the lost enthusiasm of my youth, but I did enjoy it and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone who likes gory, stylish action films about foreign comic book characters. You know who you are.