Director: Pete Travis (2012)
Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Heady
Find it: IMDB

Following the colourful, cartoonish mid-nineties Sylvester Stallone adaptation, Judge Dredd has gone all urban. Karl Urban, geddit. But also, grimmer, grittier and very dirty. It's a more realistic Mega City One than we've seen before, perhaps thanks to the film's relatively low budget. Glimpses of the future we recognise from the pages of 2000ad are there all right, but they're buried amongst battered vehicles and dirty architecture of our time - an uncomfortable mesh of the old and the new. All that stands between Mega City One and total chaos is the Judges - an elite force with the power to dispense instant justice. If Dredd is anything to go by, they massively favour the death sentence.

Very best of the Judges is Joe Dredd (Urban) - a jobsworth fascist who makes Dirty Harry look positively sparkling clean by comparison. Dredd has captured the essence of Dredd beautifully; he speaks in monotone, never once smiles and certainly doesn't take off his helmet. The uniform is very different (although it did put me in mind of Dredd's earlier appearances in 2000ad) and the helmet looks a bit too big, but this is Judge Dredd as I'd always imagined seeing him on the big screen. Urban thankfully resists the urge to go Full Christian Bale with the voice, which is gravelly but restrained.

In a plot which is like Training Day meets Die Hard, Dredd takes rookie Judge Anderson (Thirlby) on a routine training mission in the Big Meg. There, they are called to investigate a multiple homicide at Peach Trees block. At Peach Trees, they run afoul of gang lord (gang lady?) Ma-Ma Madrigal (Headey), Avon Barksdale from off've The Wire and a whole lot of heavily armed perps. Yes, it's like The Raid, except with Judge Dredd.

That growing feeling of intense disappointment I had while watching The Dark Knight Rises? Dredd was the complete opposite of that. I loved every single moment of it. Even the 3D, and I despise watching movies in 3D. It actually works very well in Dredd (I'm still not calling it Dredd 3D) particularly during the drug-induced Slow-Mo scenes. The action is intense, violent and incredibly gory. Heady's Ma-Ma is quietly menacing, Thirlby is adorably sympathetic as Anderson and Urban is an admirably terse Dredd.

There are, of course, criticisms. I'm a big Dredd fanboy, so some changes to the source material hurt more than others. The costume makes sense, but I'm not sure about the use of our modern vehicles on Mega City's roads. The action being largely set in Peach Trees makes for an incredibly tense movie, but I would also have liked to see more of the Big Meg. My biggest problem however, is with the language. I love fucking swearing as much as the next twat, but in Dredd, I thought it excessive. Dredd comics, see, come with their own profanisaurus, and I would have much preferred to see the characters shouting things like 'Drokk' and 'Grud' rather than boring old 'fuck' and 'shit'. It makes it seem grittier, but a 'Stomm' or two wouldn't have hurt. Likewise, it could maybe have used a little more humour and satire amongst all the bloodshed.

Dredd is a fantastic, mostly faithful adaptation of a series that really deserves the exposure. Despite some stiff competition, Dredd might be my favourite comic book adaptation of the year. Grud, it's good. 


  1. Good review Joel. It’s fun, bloody, and in-your-face, but it still felt like something was missing in the action-department at the end. I don’t know what it was, but something could have been a lot crazier about this material I feel like.

  2. Thank you! Yeah, hoping that any sequel we get (please!) gets to cut loose a bit more than this one - hoping to see a bit more Big Meg action, to be sure.