HBO’s Game of Thrones concluded its fourth season last month, and the series won’t be back until 2015. But if the idea of going that long without seeing a Lannister or a Stark sounds too painful, why not check out a movie featuring one of Game of Thrones' many talented actors? All month, we'll be counting down movies starring Game of Thrones cast members. This week: the gritty sci-fi thriller Dredd.
At a time when even the crummiest superhero movie is all but guaranteed to gross hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide — I’m looking at you, Amazing Spider-Man 2 — there’s one recent comic-book adaptation that went criminally under-seen: Dredd, a hard-R adaptation of the British comic 2000 A.D., which is best known for introducing Judge Dredd to the world.
Dredd is set in a futuristic dystopia in which extreme overpopulation and poverty have led to widespread crime.
To combat the seemingly insurmountable challenge, the government has appointed a series of “judges”: elite police officers allowed use their own discretion in dealing with criminals — including carrying out on-the-spot executions whenever they deem it necessary — while working their beats.
The movie’s set-up might sound a little out-there — but once it gets down to brass tacks, Dredd has a refreshingly simple premise. Judge Dredd and his rookie partner, Judge Anderson, are tasked with shutting down Ma-Ma, a crime lord and drug dealer who lives at the top of a massive skyscraper, protected by her own private army. The two Judges start at the bottom of the building, take on legions of heavily armed gangsters, and fight their way, floor by floor, up to the top.
In many ways, Dredd feels like a throwback to the brutal, hard-edged action movies that Hollywood has all but abandoned. The film’s surprisingly lush visual design and brilliantly choreographed fight scenes stand out in a way that no conventional superhero movie can match.
And Dredd's sci-fi premise is grounded in a uniformly talented cast that takes the material seriously. Karl Urban, in particular, deserves credit for his extremely committed performance in the title role; Judge Dredd never takes off his helmet, so even fans of his work in franchises like Lord of the Rings and Star Trek aren’t likely to recognize him through his growly, scowly performance.
But everyone — and Game of Thrones fans in particular — will also find plenty to admire about Lena Headey’s performance as the villainous gangster Ma-Ma, which is worlds away from her smug, boozy turn as Cersei Lannister. Headey’s villainess in Dredd has a hauntingly traumatic past: as a victimized teenager prostitute, she eventually killed her pimp after he sliced up her face with a knife. But while she still bears the scars of that attack, she refuses to let it define her. Instead, she’s as chillingly stoic as she is ruthless.
Dredd is currently available on both Netflix and Amazon Instant Video — so watch it this weekend and see how it all plays out.
Your weekly streaming recommendation: Dredd