Building on his success as Eomer in Lord of the Rings, Kirill in The Bourne Supremacy and Bones in Star Trek, Karl Urban puts on the famous helmet once worn by Sly Stallone in the 1995 original Judge Dredd movie and never even once takes it off, providing both an acting challenge and an exact replica of the original comic book material.

With two sequels in the pipeline, time will tell if this is a good career move, but Urban sure is a powerful presence as a deadly earnest avenging Judge Dredd, coldly putting paid to the evil plots and schemes of all the usual villains in the chaotic streets of the vast futuristic American metropolis Mega City One.

His latest mission is to rid the city of a new dangerous drug epidemic that has users of Slo-Mo experiencing reality at a fraction of its normal speed. Dredd’s assigned to train and evaluate Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a tough cookie of rookie who has psychic abilities thanks to a genetic mutation. Soon, they’re called to a 200-storey vertical slum controlled by prostitute turned drug lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), who head up a ruthless clan.

There follows 90 minutes of the most intense, exciting and visually stunning celluloid you’re likely to see this year, or any other any time soon, as bullets fly through people’s faces and the violence level and body count soar amazingly, all totally unpunctuated by a single laugh or a moment of what you might call fun. You might miss the campy, jokey tone of the Stallone movie, but this one has far more blood and guts appeal.

The script by The Beach’s Alex Garland is as spare and lean as a samurai movie, so the actors didn’t have to spend too many long nights learning their lines. Why the whole screenplay can’t be much longer than four pages, instead of the usual 100-plus. The story’s serviceable enough, but not particularly outstanding or original in any way. This means it‘s all down to the visuals – and they are just incredible, with the awesome 3D brilliantly used. Dredd 3D is the comic books sprung to life, exactly as the fans would want. If Urban is a towering menace of a presence to reckon with, Thirlby and Headey are at least as impressive.

(c) Derek Winnert 2012