2000AD's super-cop Judge Dredd gets another big-screen outing

Roughly five minutes in, an incendiary bullet from Judge Dredd’s hand-cannon cooks a thug’s brain inside his own skull.

He drops, glowing like a human halloween pumpkin. Dredd grimaces. Call it a statement of intent.

The helmet stays on and the gloves are off in screenwriter Alex Garland’s grim, ultraviolent reboot, which aims to burn all memories of Sylvester Stallone and Rob Schneider from our minds.

Faithfully refusing to give 2000AD’s super-cop (Karl Urban) a noble human face,  sardonic quips or a cuddly-wuddly backstory, Garland wastes no time trapping Dredd and psychic rookie Cassandra (Olivia Thirlby) in a 200-storey skyrise tower block controlled by drug baroness Ma-Ma (Lena Headey).

Back to the future?

We’ve been here before. Trouble is, Urban and Thirlby grimly battling waves of henchmen in a concrete rat-trap of corridor-to-corridor combat never comes close to matching The Raid’s sensational floor-to-ceiling carnage.

What’s worse, Dredd’s story might be even skimpier than Gareth Evans’ indonesian ripsnorter. 

But if it’s cheese, it’s hard cheese.

Stomping forward like an old-school Verhoeven movie, Dredd keeps you hooked with blunt charisma and some deadpan mega-violence. Bullets split faces, brains spill like dropped porridge and, at one point, Urban flattens a man’s windpipe with his fist.


Gore even splashes outside the frame, just one of the lovely surrealist touches from ace cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, who gives his first 3D film a grungy style-rinse that goes some way to disguising its lo-fi budget.

Thanks to a sci-fi narcotic that makes users’ brains feel as if time is moving at one per cent its normal speed – cute, that, from Garland – Dredd gets to lean hard on the slo-mo button, letting blood, water droplets and broken glass shiver beautifully in stereoscopic space.

More colour comes from Headey’s B-movie bitch, Wood Harris (The Wire’s Avon Barksdale) as her right-hand thug and Thirlby’s likeable counterweight to Dredd’s stoicism as the sweetie with a hard centre.

It’s a tough gig for Urban, whose chin gives the performance of its lifetime.

Having co-starred impressively in several franchises (LOTR, Riddick, Bourne, Star Trek), he may not quite be good enough – or bad enough? – to give this unknowable law enforcer a truly memorable wreckingball personality.

But if his head looks a little lost inside that helmet, that growly grimace remains rock-steady.


Grungy, compact and delightfully violent, Dredd wants to hit you as hard as it can. The sequel may be the movie you really want, but for now, justice has been done.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • MikeyRix

      Aug 27th 2012, 9:17

      Once again, another disappointing non-review from TF. C'mon, guys.

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    • chuffster

      Aug 27th 2012, 10:50

      What happened to the 4 star review from a month or so ago???

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    • Mattsimus

      Aug 27th 2012, 12:16


      Ok firstly it does read like a 4 star review, having said that there's nothing actually wrong with the content! Also I expected this film to at max get a 2 star rating! So apologies as on that score I was wrong, but I never rated urban as the choice for this even though I am a fan so....... Bit of a mixed bag really! XMX

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    • Hadouken76

      Aug 27th 2012, 19:35

      Is the new issue out yet? I can't find it anywhere.

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    • MillerCrosses

      Aug 31st 2012, 11:45

      The interest meter in the magazine is impressive for a three star review. Also you give Karl Urban's chin a better review than the rest of him, I kind of think that's the point.

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    • sgtdreddhead

      Sep 1st 2012, 7:09

      Justify commenting on the Raid when you know these films have nothing to do with each other! A truly poorly based review. To sing the praises one week then review like this is ridiculous. Total Film you should be ashamed....

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    • MoodyMonkey

      Sep 3rd 2012, 15:12

      f*****g hell guys...why did you fall into the same trap the 'other magazine' fell for (at least they had the excuse of reviewing it months ago - likely based on a viewing at ComicCon)? Comparing it to The Raid - really? i know its just someones opinion and this doesn't normally matter to me but this reads like another 3 star cop out...

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    • Kalonthar

      Sep 4th 2012, 0:26

      I feel sorry for Dredd too since even though it's coming out after The Raid, it was not only written before it, it also started filming before it.

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    • prime43

      Sep 5th 2012, 11:25

      Like Empire, you spent the entire review comparing the film to The Raid instead of reviewing the film itself. You've set it up to fail in your review. You've set expectations the film can never reach, not least because Dredd is an entirely different genre (comic book/super-hero) to The Raid. It's like comparing The Amazing Spider-Man to The Dark Knight, comparing a great film to a fantastic film and thus making the great one look much weaker then it actually is. So in future just review the film. Don't compare to other films, just review enfilm you are reviewing. So saying " Dredd is good, but The Raid has a similar plot and is much better" doesn't count. In fact, in this review I feel like you're telling me to watch The Raid. I want to watch Dredd. That's why I'm reading the review. So redo this review so you're actually reviewing the film please.

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    • SirNigelGresley

      Sep 5th 2012, 12:05

      I think this is a great fun review, I particularly liked "if it’s cheese, it’s hard cheese". Total Film is not Sight And Sound and I believe it has never set out to be an august cinephile journal, it's a magzine about popular films to be read by fans of popular films with a strong emphasis on starting a discussion rather than providing the last word . It's perfectly OK to refer to other films as a hook to give the reader an idea of what the film being reviewed is about or how it compares. Den Of Geek had a similar opinion to this review and I'll be interested to see everyone's comments once you've been to see it yourself.

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    • agentblackacid

      Sep 9th 2012, 1:43

      1st off, do your homework. The synopsis for Dredd was released over 3 years ago, with a release target of Dec 2011 The film went into pre-production and filming in Jo'Berg shortly after. Peter Travis filmed the raw footage and completed around 2 years ago. Alex Garland then oversaw the post production 3D magic that gave this film its unique aesthetic dragging out the release date an extra 10 months to make sure they nailed the look. IN THE MEANTIME... The Raid was filmed, shot and quickly released to much critical acclaim. Coincidentally, The Raid had a similar plot, one that had already been announced by DNA films... arguably you could say The Raid stole the plot of Dredd? Just because Dredd spent 2 years in digital post production and the The Raid didn't, The Raid beat Dredd to the punch. But Dredd came first. Go do your homework.

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    • FBKTudor

      Sep 10th 2012, 21:27

      Such a good film. I really enjoyed this film. To knock it down a star for similarities to this year's awesome Raid is not fair. The Raid was an incredible actioner with amazing martial arts fights and choreography. Dredd (which went into production before The Raid) may have had similar plot build up, but where the Raid was hand-to-hand, Dredd was guns and explosives and an entire new future setting. It had a psychic rookie, and bent Judges. It had an excellent performance from Karl Urban as Dredd, and the 3D worked amazingly well during the Slo-Mo sequences.

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    • thedanieljson

      Sep 13th 2012, 10:11


      Enjoyable c**p, with a wild sense of dry humour. The cinematography is incredible, the special effects fantastic, and the use of 3D is perfect. Fight scenes get a little repetitive, and as TF says, it's difficult not to feel that The Raid was that bit more exciting - but The Raid was also a lot less knowing.

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    • thedanieljson

      Sep 14th 2012, 0:57

      P.S. you'll be hard pressed to find a single film review that DOESN'T mention The Raid, and rightly so; the film's share near identical plots. Whether or not this was written/put into production before, it was released after, thus, The Raid is still fresh in action film lover's minds. Comparisons are inevitable and justified. TF makes a point of mentioning the camerawork - a truly defining feature of the film - and the performances, solidifying it as a Dredd, if possibly more importantly, comic-book film. Having seen this film twice, I agree with everything said in this review. Not to sound like a kiss-a**e that is.

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    • spoonlamp

      Sep 17th 2012, 9:50


      This was great. A solid 4 stars. Does exactly what it says on the tin. Now hoping it can make enough money in the US to warrant sequels - I like that Mega City 1 hasn't been explored on a cheap budget, would not only lower the film but also make a sequel more difficult for continuity.

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    • SpaceCakeFan

      Sep 28th 2012, 19:22

      Well, I would have given the film 4 stars at least, probably 4.5 would be fairer (if that were possible). My only gripes with the film: 1. It was too short, could have had an extra 15 minutes at least. 2. The 3D effects - I'm not a fan of 3D and the times it chimed in, actually reminded me I was watching a film, instead of forgetting that fact and being immersed and lost in the experience. Otherwise, especially for a low-budget film, I thought it was cool, brutal, humorous, in fact all the things I would expect from a film about Dredd. I think Karl Urban was the right choice for Dredd, I'm glad that the film makers didn't slavishly copy the comics, and instead made a more "realistic" kind of Dredd with leather biker gear and body armour, in a society on the verge of breakdown. Much like our own. I'd like to see a sequel, but hopefully, if there is one, it doesn't go overly complex with politics etc., because I'd rather see raw, brutal mayhem than see something like a Star Wars prequel movie.

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    • spid2411

      Sep 29th 2012, 15:58

      This was a 4 star movie - its good to see a film with some balls that plays true to the comics and makes no attempt to pander to the reality tv brigade by watering it down. The tagline might as well have been "You don't like it...LEAVE". It probably wont do well at the box office but it was refreshing to see a sci-fi film made like that (although it would have benefited greatly from having an oh so witty sidekick to break the tension like, I dunno, Rob Schneider or someone - yeah?). ps and TF - you give this 3 stars but gave Prometheus 4 stars (it was a 1 star movie). Think you need to get some new staff on board who have some taste and don't bend over to a turkey like that just because a knight of the realm directed it - give me a shout.

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    • BasedBishop

      Sep 30th 2012, 21:49


      @spid2411 I don't think it's fair to say that Total Film needs new writers just because you disagree with their reviews. Not everybody is gonna have the same view as everybody else when it comes to films. I agree with both the three stars for this and the four for Prometheus; that doesn't make anybody right or wrong. The reviews aren't going to please everybody.

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    • spid2411

      Oct 1st 2012, 8:01

      Hello BasedBishop - you are right that everyone is entitled to different views but to give a pile of rubbish like Prometheus 4 stars is a complete joke. My view is that they gave that film a positive review because they spent months building it up and didn't want to look stupid panning it when it came out. It was terrible - a dreadful script, no characters and no attempt to build tension (which was what made Alien so good). Hey, but it looked pretty (dead hard to do that with 100 million of a budget). Dredd was well made (on a limited budget) and showed respect for the fans of that character - Prometheus can be summed up by a friend of mine who sent me a text after he saw it which read " Saw Prometheus - it angered me. I was treated like a child..." Actually, he should write reviews for them - would be quicker, more accurate and to the point.

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    • passion4movies

      Oct 4th 2012, 18:48


      I Loved this movie. Check your brain at the door, and enjoy the ride. I must admit though, i have never seen the 90's version. Just didn't appeal to me at the time. Stallone playing, well, himself. In yet another role the character disappeared behind the actor. Amazing performance from Lena Headey. Cant Wait to see this again. I do agree with the comment about the squeal being the film you probably want, but like most good films you need an introduction to grab your attention. (X-men?) 4 Stars

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    • ProjectJames

      Oct 12th 2012, 11:10


      The most violent movie of the year, and best use of 3D. The slow motion effects make you feel part of the action. Dredd is super cool, and played by Karl Urban, he OWNS Dredd. Olivia Thirlby was bad in The Darkest Hour but has totally redeemed herself as Andersen, she can kick a*s! Lena Headey is hands down the best bad guy of 2012. A slick and exciting movie, must see.

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    • altfire

      Jan 23rd 2013, 16:14

      But if it’s cheese, it’s hard cheese. Love it.

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    • astridgamez

      Feb 19th 2013, 1:17


      Hand's down the best movie ever seen so far(in my opinion!!!)And yes Karl Urban OWN'S Judge DREDD no one(i mean no one)can do a better Judge DREDD than Karl U. And Olivia Thirlby was AMAZING as Cassandra Anderson. I also keep seeing review's about The Raid yes it was sorta similar to Judge DREDD, BUT The Raid had less you know what i mean just less!!! P.s Not too "Offend" any one this is what i think which is also called an opinion.So there is or are different opinions towards the movie Judge DREDD. =:3

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