After the floundering absurdity that was 1995’s Judge Dredd left a nasty taste in the collective mouths of fans, all wen quiet on the cinematic front of Dredd for nearly two decades (I call it the Batman & Robin effect). The clouds parted though, and we finally got one streamlined masterpiece of a flick with 2013’s Dredd. Not only is it achingly faithful to the comics right down to Dredd never removing his helmet, but it stands as one of the ballsiest and well made action pictures in recent years. It’s never overstuffed or busy, takes the violence seriously, has genuine suspense, a bone deep and super tough performance from a grizzled Karl Urban, a sexy, no nonsense villain and the best original score of 2013 by a country mile. Not too mention it’s atmospherics, which are helped by said score of course, to create a sonic mood board of post apocalyptic ruin and urban rot. Dredd is part of an elite department called the Judges, who roam the smoky desolation of Mega City One and act as judge, jury and executioner wherever they see fit. Dredd is a trigger happy juggernaut with no use for scum or criminals and has not a qualm with taking them out like the trash they are, often in brutal, bloody and uncompromising ways. On day he’s partnered up with judge in training Cassandra (Olivia Thirlby, perfect), a rookie with blossoming telepathic abilities. A routine call leads them to a gargantuan Mega Block tower called Peach Trees, a sting irony once we see the rampant squalor inside. This tower happens to be controlled by the fiercest criminal overlord in town, Ma Ma, played by a purring, lethal and altogether terrifying Lena Headey. Her tactics go beyond barbaric and she’s sitting on the manufacturing of a drug called Slo Mo, which makes the users feel like time is passing at one percent it’s normal rate (a gold mine for setting up a scene visually). Ma Ma locks down the tower as the two judges arrive, and decrees that she wants them dead. Now it’s a visceral fight for survival against her armies of thugs and miscreants, and a slow ascent towards her penthouse lair, for Dredd to finish her off. The whole film takes place in Peach Trees, so it’s a self contained, one location affair, and a goddamn knockout of a movie. There are R rated films that dabble in violence a bit and barely earn their stripes, and then there are R rated films that leap at the chance to show people dying six ways to Sunday. Dredd absolutely decimates Ma Ma’s armies in high style and often in super slow motion as they face him while they’re high. The slo mo never feels tacky, but has a tactile richness and fluidity that makes the inflicted carnage so satisfying as it unfolds. The score by Paul Leonard Morgan is an uproarious rallying call that drives forward constantly, charging out of the gate in the opening minute as Dredd pursues a van down the highway on his thundering motorbike, and pummelling each scene with heart stopping force until it mellows out for an eerie passage called ‘Ma Ma’s Requiem’ which is my favourite piece in the film and can be listened to on repeat. Pure genius. Thirlby is the voice of reason and the eyes of the audience, experiencing for the first time how ugly this crime fighting business is, and holding her own wickedly. There’s a dark sense of danger to the whole thing, a frank and outright lawlessness to the villains, as it’s just another day on the job for them. No overacting, no histrionics. Just mellowed out murder and meanness all round. This is the Dredd film that we’ve been waiting for, and have long deserved after that other mess. Low box office returns means we may never see a sequel (wtf is wrong with people, like, who didn’t go see this??), but we’ll always have this little blitzkrieg of a flick to re watch time and again. I know I will.