America is an irradiated wasteland. Within it lies a city. Outside the boundary walls, a desert. A cursed earth. Inside the walls, a cursed city, stretching from Boston to Washington D.C. An unbroken concrete landscape.
800 million people living in the ruin of the old world and the mega structures of the new one. Mega blocks. Mega highways. Mega City One. Convulsing. Choking. Breaking under its own weight. Citizens in fear of the street. The gun. The gang.
Only one thing fighting for order in the chaos: the men and women of the Hall of Justice. Juries. Executioners. Judges.
An addictive new drug called "Slo-Mo" has been introduced, which slows the user's perception of time to 1% of normal.
Dredd is in pursuit of three junkies in a van. When they see him, they begin firing at him with a machine gun. After killing a pedestrian by running over him, the van crashes near a mall. One of them runs inside.
Now cornered, the junkie grabs a young girl as a hostage. After negotiations fail, Dredd fires a heat-seeking round that flies into Zwirner's mouth, killing him and freeing the hostage.
Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is tasked by the Chief Judge (Rakie Ajola) with evaluating new recruit Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thrilby).
She has powerful psychic abilities due to a genetic mutation, but failed the aptitude tests to be a Judge.
Chief Judge: Sink or swim. Chuck her in the deep end.
Dredd: It's all a deep end.
As they leave, Dredd briefs Anderson on points of automatic failure as a Judge.
Dredd: A rookie Judge on assessment is likely to be involved in armed combat. One in five don't survive the first day. You may be required to carry out on-the-spot executions of convicted felons.
Anderson: Yes, sir.
Dredd: Incorrect sentencing is an automatic fail. Disobeying a direct order from your assessment officer is an automatic fail. Losing your primary weapon or having it taken from you is an automatic fail.
Anderson: Yes, sir.
Dredd: You ready, rookie?
Anderson: I am.
Dredd: Your assessment starts now.
We cut to Peach Trees Block, a neighborhood where fellow Judges rarely dare to venture. It is a 200 story vertical slum controlled by drug lord "Ma-Ma" (Lena Headley) and her ruthless clan, known for excessive violence.
Ma-Ma's gang has captured three rogue dealers selling Sternhammer product in Ma-Ma's territory. They gave them a beating two weeks ago as a warning, but the rogue dealers continued selling in her territory.
She decides to make an example of them. Ma-Ma orders her gang to skin the rogue dealers and hit them with a dose of Slo-Mo.
They finish the execution by throwing them off the atrium from the top floor. The crowd below is horrified when they see the bloodied bodies splattered on the floor.
Dredd and Anderson mount their motorcycles to start their patrol.
Dredd: Twelve serious crimes reported every minute. Seventeen thousand per day. We can respond to around six percent.
Anderson: Which six percent?
Dredd: Your show, rookie. You tell me.
Dredd and Anderson receive the report of the triple homicide and respond. As they arrive, Dredd quizes her about Peach Trees.
She recalls that Peach Trees houses 75,000 registered citizens and has the highest crime rate in Sector 13. It has an unemployment rate of 96% and more than half the residential levels are classed as slums.
Dredd stops to look at a homeless junkie.
Dredd: Rookie, judgment?
Anderson: Vagrancy: three weeks, iso cubes. But prioritize murders?
Dredd: Correct. [to junkie] Don't be here when we get back.
They approach the crime scene and question the block paramedic, TJ. Dredd opens the mouth of a victim and points out a cold-burn from a slo-mo inhaler.
Anderson looks up, putting together in her mind what had happened. They receive a report confirming all three had possession of narcotics convictions. With the mounting evidence, she suggests it's a punishment killing to send a message.
That's when TJ mentions the Ma-Ma clan. They go to TJ's office and pull up Ma-Ma's records.