Dredd: The SFX Verdict

Karl Urban is the law. You better believe it...

The word is out Earthlets, and the word is zarjaz. It’s official: Dredd is fantastic, and we can all rejoice that finally 2000AD’s finest has the movie he deserves. Making its debut at San Diego Comic Con, Dredd is 90-odd minutes of pure exhilaration. Thank Tharg for that.

From a high-octane opening salvo to a truly spectacular finale, via ultra-violent shoot-outs and super-stylish 3D, Dredd pulls no punches. Effortlessly laying the ghost of Sly Stallone’s 1995 atrocity to rest, it’s gritty, brutal, packed with stand-out moments and tonally faithful to the source material.

Karl Urban is a fantastic Dredd, never removing his helmet and never letting lawbreakers get away with it. Relentless, unforgiving and compelling, he encapsulates all the complexity of Mega-city One’s foremost fascist lawman with an economy and rugged authority that’s a delight to behold. Dishing out punishment and one-liners like a pro, Urban carries the whole thing on his rock-solid chin. Olivia Thirlby’s Anderson provides the perfect counterpoint to Dredd’s unrelenting black and white view of the world. A barely qualified psychic and trainee Judge out to earn her badge, her abilities and liberal outlook lend her a softness that makes her journey all the more interesting.

It’s a small-scale story really, a day in the life of Dredd as he attempts to take down a drug lord – Lena Heady’s MaMa – in the super-sized Peach Trees mega-block. The straightforward plot helps keep things tight, and serves as the perfect hot-housed introduction to Dredd for newcomers, while giving fans plenty to enjoy. Littered with references to the comic both obvious and oblique, it’s littered with thrill-powered moments that will have 2000AD readers squealing with delight.

The action is forceful, bloody and imaginative, and the 3D serves to enhance rather than hinder the enjoyment of the huge number of explosive scenes. The look of the Judges and their oppressive environment is highly effective, Mega-City One feeling like an actual, living city rather than some impossible futuristic nightmare.

Sure, there are a couple of less-than-perfect aspects; the lack of budget occasionally shows through, and the plot is pretty basic, but there’s so much here to love that you’ll quickly forgive Dredd any shortcomings. Clearly made with love by people who have read the comics and understand what makes Joe Dredd tick, it’s a focussed and thoroughly entertaining take on one of the most enduring characters in British comics. When the sheer relief of seeing a big-screen Dredd that does justice to the character had subsided, SFX wanted two things: to immediately see it again, and to see more stories from this version of Mega-city One and it’s legendary lawman as soon as possible.

Dredd is released in the UK on 7 September.

Don’t miss loads more of SFX‘s Dredd coverage!