OLIVIA Thirlby has hit her stride with her latest film Dredd 3D, proving she's more than a sidekick or the lead's best friend.
Dredd 3D is set in the future where America has become an irradiated wasteland.
On its east coast, lies Mega City One a vast, violent metropolis with more than 400 million citizens living in perpetual fear.
The only ones imposing order are The Judges and the quintessential is Dredd.
Dredd is ordered to road test a rookie judge, the powerful psychic Cassandra Anderson and the pair head for a seemingly routine homicide in Peach Trees - a 200-storey slum run by the pitiless Ma-Ma clan.
When Ma-Ma shuts down the building and orders her clan to hunt the judges down, Dredd and Anderson are caught in a vicious and relentless fight for survival.
Thirlby, cast as Anderson, said while she was already a fan of Judge Dredd, she was sold on Alex Garland's script.
"I was reading his character of Anderson which jumped off the page to me and I cared about her and I was rooting for her," she said.
"I read the script and thought it was riveting and thought it was one of the best, if not the best genre script I've ever read, it was a no-brainer for me."
After shooting an audition tape while filming on location in Moscow, it was months before Thirlby heard any feedback.
"All of a sudden I got a phone call saying they loved my tape and I was their first choice and that was a shock at the time, but it was a very exciting shock," she said.
Producer Allon Reich said they needn't look further than Thirlby.
The classically trained actress, discovered in sleeper hit Juno in 2007, had what Reich called an "Indie New York actress" vibe which worked perfectly for Anderson who was based on Debbie Harry.
"I feel like I really got the best of both worlds with Anderson," Thirlby said.
"She is such an incredibly dynamic, kind of a dream character to play, but I got to play her in this genre kind of work.
"I really love being able to do films of all kinds and I try to surprise myself and try to play things I've never played before, there's really nothing that I'm not open to, so in the future I hope to be able to pursue a variety of things that come my way - knock on wood."
To prepare for Dredd 3D, Thirlby undertook stunt and weapons training in Cape Town, South Africa.
"I'm not the most graceful or athletic person. They worked really hard with me and appreciated the hard work I'd put in," she said.
"I had so much fun learning how to roundhouse kick and box and throw punches and fire guns, it was tremendous fun.
"I do feel quite bad-ass."
While the fight scenes are perfectly crafted and choreographed, it's the radical special effects dollying up gore and violence to make it somewhat beautiful.
"A lot of the gory things end up looking the most beautiful because of the slow motion," Thirlby said.
"I think it sets up the notion that this world of Mega City One is a really gory, really bleak and brutal place to be and there's a lot of action films out there, a few in particular I'm thinking of that you see hundreds of people get shot and not a drop of blood.
"That's the choice of the film maker not to make a bloody film, but it's not realistic.
"It paints a very romantic picture of violence. I don't think Dredd paints a very romantic picture of violence at all."
Now that Thirlby's in between jobs, she's "unemployed" and urges everyone to check out Dredd 3D when it hits cinemas on October 25.
"I think what makes this film really special is the plot is very simple and the movie is about the characters," she said.
"It's also very beautifully shot. The thing is visually arresting and it's full of bad-ass girl power."
Stars: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby and Lena Headey
Director: Pete Travis