In the future, America is nothing but a wasteland.

The streets are multi-laned highways, the colors are bleak, and the people are dirty and just trying to get by. In Mega-City One, a place overrun with criminals, where millions of people are crammed into 200-story buildings called “cityblocks,” there is a desperate need for justice and order. Enter Judge Dredd.

Dredd (Karl Urban), is the law. The monosyllabic, futuristic cop who delivers instant justice without judicial review.

Karl Urban does a lot with this role by doing nothing at all. With only his mouth visible, grimaces, sarcasm, and witty one-liners portray a cold yet humane bad-ass who gets the job done. On top of that, the writers don’t give any background to Dredd. This gives Urban very little to go on, but he manages to give the character lots of personality.

This changes when a trainee cop named Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who is also a psychic, is assigned to Dredd as his partner. They decide to investigate a triple-homicide at a cityblock slum called “Peach Trees.” Thirlby’s portrays as Anderson, as a rookie who wants to make the world a better place. She uses her psychic powers in ways that make her a prime example of empowerment for women. She is the emotional point-of-view on the world where Urban isn’t, creating a confident, calm presence.

Once they discover Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), a scar-faced drug-dealer who operates out of the building, their relationship turns into a game of cat and mouse. Ma-Ma operates the production of a drug called Slo-Mo, an inhalant that makes the user perceive time at 1% its normal speed. Water splashing, glass shattering, and bullets penetrating in slow motion provide beautiful graphics that are sparkling and radiantly colored. It is best to watch in 3D.

While Dredd is a violent, sci-fi/action movie, it’s slow in development. While there is a lot of gore and gun-fighting, the development of the overall plot lags. What it loses in speed, it gains with solid acting and pretty graphics.

Dredd is a satisfying movie for those looking for something with substance and hyper-violent, gory scenes. It is a well-done adaptation of the comic, and a pleasant surprise for this year.