Dredd 3D brings Judge Dredd to the screen in style

Dredd 3D hits cinemas with a bang, finally giving the legendary comic book lawman the big screen incarnation he deserves.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Expertise Films, TV, Movies, Television, Technology
Richard Trenholm
2 min read

Here comes the judge! Dredd 3D hits cinemas with a bang, finally giving the legendary comic-book lawman the big-screen incarnation he deserves.

Sylvester Stallone's crack at the legendary British comic got the futuristic look right but nothing else, a problem addressed in bloody style here. It's uncomfortably obvious in the settings that the budget is a fraction of the 1995 Hollywood outing, but the tone, texture and central character are all spot-on. Anchoring the whole thing, as it should be, is an absolutely perfect rendering of Judge Dredd himself.

Karl Urban's Judge Joe Dredd is an irresistibly commanding presence at the centre of the film, a towering monolith every bit as imposing as the skyscraper he's cleaning up. He's both unstoppable force and immovable object, a tank of a man with a constant scowl and a nice line in hard-bitten, gravelly put-downs rumbling from the depths of his armour.

As Dredd's troubled protegee Judge Anderson, Olivia Thirlby provides a perfect contrast to Dredd's stoney-faced authority. Vulnerable yet feisty, Anderson provides a touching humanity in the centre of this unremitting bleakness, where the cops are as bad as the criminals.

The two judges are trapped inside a 200-storey tower block ruled with an iron fist by the sadistic Ma-Ma, played by Game of Thrones' Lena Headey. Ma-Ma controls the trade of a drug called Slo-mo, which makes you feel as if time is passing at an infinitesimally slow rate.

Slo-mo offers compelling reason for filming in 3D, heading off the common criticism that 3D doesn't add anything to a film. The Slo-mo scenes are dizzyingly beautiful -- except, that is, for the many, many shots showing bullets going through people's faces in loving detail. If you like rewatching your headshots when you're gaming you'll love this, but not everyone will delight in having bits of the inside of someone's face splattering across their glasses.

The problem with Dredd is the script. It's not short of one-liners, but it lacks any sense of momentum, urgency or progression. We're never sure if the judges are trying to hide, escape, or arrest the bad guys -- I wanted to see some more inventive set-pieces and more variety to the perps.

Dredd suffers most in comparison not to the source comic or Stallone's tackfest, but to another recent movie that coincidentally shares a near-identical plot. The Raid is a frankly unhinged Indonesian action movie that also sees cops fighting their way up through a crime-riddled tower block, in a jaw-dropping whirlwind of the sort of deranged action Dredd lacks. Packed with audacious set-pieces, The Raid is the better film -- but Dredd has Dredd.

Are you a Judge Dredd fan? Are you excited about the new film, or did Stallone nail it already? Lay down the law in the comments or on our lawless Facebook page.