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Review: Dredd

Lionsgate Films: Karl Urban in "Dredd"I didn’t know anything about Judge Dredd when the movie of the same name debuted in the 90’s. Including myself, he wasn’t a relevant superhero for that many people, but I was willing to watch it since Sylvester Stallone starred in it. That movie wasn’t very good and the character has been out of my mind until I recently heard they were making a new film featuring him called Dredd with Karl Urban in the lead role.

The movie Dredd is set in a vast section of America called Mega City One or  “The Cursed City.” It has a population of 800 million people and looks worn out and broken down. The decrepit city actually stretches from Boston to Washington D.C. and is an extremely violent place. It’s so violent that they’ve created a version of law enforcement called “Judges” that have been given the authority to be judge, jury and executioner while on the streets fighting crime. Out of all of the judges on the force, Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) may be the most notable and the best.

Unlike the others, Dredd appears to be one of those “I work alone” types that we’re accustomed to seeing in police movies. They never really say it or make it a point of emphasis, but the film starts off with him on his own and they never mention anything about a partner,so I’d imagine that he’s always riding solo. While that may be the case for this particular judge under normal circumstances, today he’s asked to make an exception for his apparent rule. He’s asked to bring a rookie on board to see if she’s got the goods to become a judge.

According to their testing program, she falls just short of the scores required to make it, but she does bring something unique to the table that very few applicants have at her level. Because of that, she’s given an assignment with Judge Dredd basically coming along as her chaperone, supervisor and talent evaluator. If her tour of duty for the day is a success and she earns Dredd’s approval, she may be able to join the force.

Dredd is portrayed by Karl Urban and he handles him as you might think he would if you know anything about the Judge Dredd character. He’s all business, and walks around with a scowl on his face through the whole movie. I should say lower half of his face since we never get to see the upper half. There’s not much acting here, because he’s emotionless and he is just going out and doing his job. He shoots, fights and hands down sentences to the guilty in the name of upholding the law and protecting civilians.

He and the potential judge in training that he’s working with are ordered to a massive apartment complex where a heinous crime has just taken place. They enter the complex to investigate, but soon they eventually find themselves locked in for reasons unknown to them. To make matters worse, they’re attacked from all angles by a countless number of enemies. Now they have to find a way to survive, stop the person ordering the attack and ultimately bring justice in this 200-story vertical slum.

The person behind the attack is a prostitute turned drug lord named Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). With the help of her gang known as The Ma-Ma Clan, she rules over the complex with an iron fist. Her authority is untested in the complex now and she’s getting stronger and stronger as time goes by. One of the things that’s helping her gain this power is a new drug that she’s pushing called “Slow-Mo.” This aptly named drug appears to slow down time in the minds of it’s users and it’s also used by the director to create certain effects during some of the action scenes.

I don’t know if this is being shown in 2D, but if it is, you’d be better off seeing it in 3D. In order to get the full effect of the action in these scenes, I think you’ll have to check out Dredd in 3D. They use the 3D and the revolutionary new drug as tools to make the movie more interesting and it works for the most part. On multiple occasions, they also use these two features together and we get some quality visuals concerning things like jaws shattering or belly fat jiggling as a bullet passes through.

Outside of that, the rest of the action as a whole is nothing spectacular. Most of it is the usual stuff that we’ve seen in other films and that can be perceived as good or bad depending on the side of the fence that you’re standing on. Just based on my description in the paragraph above, you should be able to tell that it’s a rated R film and there’s a good amount of blood and gore to go with the violence if you’re into that kind of thing.

I appreciate that Dredd  is actually rated R and I feel that’s how most comic book movies should be anyway. Of course that will never happen, because a lot of those movies have the potential to bring in a ton of money if they are deemed suitable for people of all ages. Still, many of the comic books that are out there are graphic in some way or are very  close to being graphic, so having the films emulate that is always welcome to me. Plus, it’s kind of weird watching violent action movies with little to no blood with all of the fights and shootouts that take place in some of them.

I do wish that Dredd had a bit more originality though and that’s one of the things that hurt it in my mind. It’s not a bad movie to watch, but I’ve seen it done much better in another movie not too long ago. Dredd is strikingly similar to The Raid: Redemption in a large number of ways, but it’s based in the future, it has nowhere near the same amount of action and it’s simply nowhere near as good as that martial arts bonanza based in Thailand.  Since they came out so close together, I can’t say this is a complete rip-off of The Raid: Redemption, but the similarities are more than noticeable.

Score: 2.5/5

Rating: R

Director: Pete Travis

Karl Urban
Olivia Thirlby
Lena Headey
Wood Harris
Langley Kirkwood
Junior Singo
Luke Tyler
Jason Cope

Film Length: 98 minutes

Release Date: September 21, 2012

Distributor: Lionsgate


  1. Definitely noted the similarities with The Raid in my review, but even though it didn’t live up to that film’s standard of all out martial arts glory I still felt like this was a perfectly solid action effort that didn’t deserve the bum rap it got at the US box office

    • It’s certainly an action flick that could entertain a lot of people if they give it a try. There were some good things about it.

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