Dredd is a surprisingly good time. This is most likely because Karl Urban, whose face we never see, is great as the lead and Lena Headey is not a stupid big baddie. She’s vicious and smart and nearly impossible to beat.

It’s also a very well realized world that adds specific difficulty to our heroes’ conflict.

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released September 21, 2012

Written by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, and Alex Garland

Directed by Pete Travis

Starring Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Karl Urban, and Rakie Ayola

Rated: R

*     *     *     *     *


The world has gone to hell. Much of the USA is now a mess, with a huge city called Mega City that extends from the old Boston to the old D.C. containing millions of people. Slums are vertical buildings, some 200 stories high, mini-cities of their own.

Violent, brutal crime is rampant and it would seem that in Mega City, your chances of dying young are incredibly high. Life in this world really is mean, nasty, brutish, and short.

The only hope for the city is the Hall of Justice. From the Hall sally forth hundreds of Judges– law enforcement personnel who are charged as judges, juries, and executioners. Dredd (Urban) is one of the best of those judges. On this day, he is showing a rookie the ropes. This rookie, Anderson (Thirlby), has some heightened psychic abilities due to radiation-based mutation.

They respond to a brutal crime and find that they might have a line on the controller and distributor of a new drug called Slo-Mo. This is a chemical that makes its users feel as if every second is drawn out and slowed down. It is highly addictive and incredibly dangerous, in that people using it become dangers to those around them.

Now Dredd and Anderson enter a high-rise slum to take down Ma-Ma (Headey), a truly vicious woman with ambitions to control the city. But for now, she controls every inch of the massive high-rise and can see into pretty much every cranny of the building. And she traps Dredd and Anderson in the building so she can hunt them down. This means that the only way out for Dredd and Anderson is through Ma-Ma.

So Dredd becomes a chase, escape, and blow-everything-up film that storms forward with the stolid determination of the lead, Dredd himself. The film wastes no time with backstory for Dredd, simply letting the audience learn about this guy as the story unfolds. He is smart and tough and has to use everything he has to catch up to Ma-Ma and survive her intelligent and terrifying plans.


Dredd is violent, explosive, mostly joyless, and very entertaining. It’s grim and means business, just like its lead, and if you are the type that likes stolid heroes who will not rest or give up, along with all kinds of creative ways to do harm to people, you will like this movie. The writing is straightforward and the characters make choices that are totally in keeping with who they are– and the plot events stem from each of those choices.

Urban is particularly good, mostly because he sets any ego aside and disappears behind the  helmet and then expresses himself with righteous violence. Any attempts at humanizing this character would have weakened it. Thirlby does a nice job, as she should since she is the character with an arc. She starts out hesitating and questioning and ends up confident and powerful. Headey is also a joy.

Action film buffs will get a kick out of this explosive film and will particularly enjoy the creative filming and solid production value.

Content warnings: Very strong language and graphic violence.

Writing: 4.5          Acting: 4.5          Overall: 4.5

Don’t ‘dredd’ the clicking; simply share this review with everyone you know. If you don’t, the judges will find you.