Film Review : Dredd (2012)

By Paul McAlorum

Lionsgate Films

From the opening moments it is clear that Dredd is not like the colourful box-office friendly films that have dominated summer 2012. Within seconds we are thrust into a seedy, crime-ridden world, an urban jungle where endless tower blocks cast a shadow over the streets. The future world of Mega City One makes Gotham seem like paradise.

In place of the law are ‘Judges’, who act as Judge, jury and executioner. The most effective of all is the one they call Dredd.


Faithfully adapted from the 2000AD comic series, Dredd is a violent, uncompromising force of nature, carrying out the law in ways that would make Bruce Wayne shudder. At the receiving end of Dredd’s brutality is Drug baroness ‘Ma-Ma’, who has taken control of the latest narcotic, ‘slow-mo’.

If you have grown tired of the family-friendly antics of other comic-book characters then Dredd is the film for you. Action is the key word.  Brains are splattered on walls, bones are shattered and bullets literally tear limbs from bodies in razor sharp detail. The ‘slow mo’ effects, combined with the use of 3D, result in a delicious cocktail of hypnotic visuals and deafening sounds, with every detail – from water droplets to broken debris – shown in ways that defy the films modest budget. It features brutal, wince-inducing fight scenes and makes no apologies for it.

Somewhat predictably though, it is when the visuals and the action are put aside that the cracks show. The comic-book series has entire worlds and many fantastical creatures for Dredd to tackle, but in Dredd a smaller budget meant exploring these story-lines was impossible.

The film follows the Judge and rookie Anderson – played by the dull Olivia Thirlby – as they make their way to the top of a 200 storey building to capture Ma Ma. That’s basically it in terms of plot.  It is a 90 minute set piece with Dredd playing cat and mouse in a tower block.

Despite this, Dredd is something to be admired. Karl Urban, true to comic form, never takes off his helmet, yet still manages to convey Dredd as the kick-ass and fierce fighter he was meant to be. One scene even has Dredd smashing a thug’s windpipe and then blowing a man’s head off with a hand canon – and yet he remains oddly endearing as a no-nonsense hero.

Easily the most violent and hard-edged comic book adaptation in years, Dredd is hardly perfect but what it lacks in originality and story it makes up for with striking visuals and entertaining action.

Dredd (available in 3D) is on general release at Movie House cinemas across Belfast

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