Dredd (2012)


“Judgement time.”

The Scoop: 2012 R, directed by Pete Travis and starring Karl Urban, Rachel Wood, and Olivia Thirlby

Tagline: Judgment is coming

Summary Capsule: Judge Dredd gets locked inside a high-rise apartment complex populated by drug dealers. That was not smart of the drug dealers.


Justin’s rating: I don’t need a rating.  I am the law!

Justin’s review: I’m not going to flaunt my geek credentials in regards to Judge Dredd, mostly because I have none.  I am vaguely aware that it’s a satirical cop comic book series set in a post-apocalyptic dystopian future and that it probably influenced the creation of RoboCop.  Aside from having seen the awful Sylvester Stallone movie a couple of times, I have rested quite comfortably with a lack of Judge Dredd in my life.

Still, I’m always up for a dystopian supercop slugfest, especially when my curiosity is aroused as to how they could recover the franchise from Rob Schnieder’s presence.  From the look of it, Dredd promised to be a more faithful R-rated action piece without all of the goofy jokes, helmet coming off, and lackluster green screen effects.  I have no idea of how faithful it ended up being to the comic book series, but taking it for what it was, it actually was a decent and surprisingly bloody flick that kept the plot small and tight so that the action sequences could proceed without distraction.

Karl “Doc McCoy” Urban takes on the titular role here, and I have to give a hearty thumbs up to the fact that we never see Dredd without his iconic helmet. That’s tough for actors and directors to do, because even if the character is known for always wearing a disguise or something hiding part of their face, it makes emotive acting more difficult and lessens audience recognition.  That’s why all of these dumb superheroes keep taking off their masks/helmets these days, especially in act 3.

But not Dredd; he suits up in the first couple of minutes and that’s that from there.  He doesn’t need to emote, as he’s a nearly emotionless beast who dispenses judgment without mercy to the scum who populate a massive city that rests in the remains of earth’s landscape.  It’s an ugly situation with an ugly civilization that demands an equally ugly response by law and order.

So if you don’t know already, the Judges are the combination of the police, juries, judges, and executioners, able to handle all aspects of law enforcement in this quasi-fascist state.  Dredd is the most notorious of them all, and when the film opens, he’s being saddled with a rookie whose grades are subpar but she’s got incredible psychic abilities to compensate.  The two of them investigate a triple homicide near a high rise project, leading them to accidentally stumble upon the domain of a nasty gang leader named Ma-Ma.  Ma-Ma has no intention of letting the Judges leave alive, and so she engineers a lockdown of the building so that she and her gang can kill the cops and keep things under wraps.

It’s a bare-bones plot, to be sure.  A bulk of the running time is the gradual progression of Dredd and his partner up the high rise, through fire-fights, and the gradual uncovering of a not-so-secret mystery.  The action isn’t graceful wire-fu, but brutal firefights where people explode, gush squibs, get caught on fire, and encounter all sorts of other nastiness.  In short, Dredd would be quite at home among the R-rated scifi action flicks of the ’80s.

As a character, there isn’t much to Dredd; he’s just a lug who’s good at staying alive and killing bad guys.  The other characters try to give him some depth in the form of brief dialogue exchanges, but you really have to meet the film more than halfway to see any sort of personality on his part.  Maybe that’s best, to keep things simple and focused.  At least the action was easy to follow (no shakey-cam laziness here) and seeing all of the neat things Dredd’s gun can do kept me interested.  If you’re looking for action tinged with scifi accessories, it’s a decent enough snack as long as you don’t ruin your dinner with it.

Even Judges need to stretch before jogging
Even Judges need to stretch before jogging


  • The Peach Tree block is named after a restaurant in Shrewsbury, the place where screenwriter Alex Garland and Judge Dredd creator John Wagner first met to discuss the film.
  • The graffiti throughout Peach Trees contains the names of characters that appear in the Judge Dredd strip, such as Chopper and Kenny Who?
  • The character Ma-Ma was originally written as an elderly woman but Lena Headey convinced ‘Alex Garland’ to make her a middle-age person with a male-hater personality.
  • In Ma-Ma’s penthouse there is a Judge’s helmet hanging on her wall with a length of gold chain attached to it, a nod to the comic design of Judge Dredd where the gold chain would link the badge to the uniform collar

Groovy Quotes

Judge Dredd: In case you people have forgotten, this block operates under the same rules as the rest of the city. Ma-Ma is not the law… I am the law. Ma-Ma is a common criminal; guilty of murder, guilty of the manufacture and distribution of the narcotic known as Slo-Mo, and as of now under sentence of death. Any who obstruct me in carrying out my duty will be treated as an accessory to her crimes… you have been warned. And as for you Ma-Ma… judgement time.

Judge Dredd: Rookie, you’re ready?
Anderson: Yeah.
Judge Dredd: You don’t look ready.

Anderson: He’s thinking about going for your gun.
Judge Dredd: Yeah.
Anderson: He changed his mind.
Judge Dredd: Yeah.

Anderson: Sir, helmets interfere with my psychic abilities.
Judge Dredd: Think a bullet in the head might interfere with them more.

Chief Judge: Sink or swim. Chuck her in the deep end.
Judge Dredd: It’s all a deep end.

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  1. Way better than I expected it to be. It’s shallow but violent fun, and I think the ’80s action flick is an apt comparison.

    I’m glad that the Slo-Mo effect wasn’t in it more though, it was starting to get a bit heavy handed there.

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