September 12th, 2012

Now this is more like it.  Got to say I thoroughly enjoyed this lean, brutal, stylish adaptation of 2000AD’s best known character, the perfect antidote to the bloated running times and overwrought self-importance that seems to have infected action films of late.  Minimal messing around, a growly voice-over, and we’re straight into a stripped-down plot of one-man justice system Dredd and rookie Anderson fighting for their lives in a sealed off mega-building against loopy drug dealer Ma-Ma and her army of gun-happy crazies.  They went for a more modern-day feel than the comic or the ropey Stallone version, but I think that worked pretty well and probably helped a bit with budget conservation (a mere bagatelle at $45 million, I understand).  The 3d was good at times but I don’t think added a huge amount.  I remain to be convinced of the usefulness of the technology, really, given its drawbacks.  Nice score and sound design, though, especially around the sequences of sparkly slowed down time which accompanied the taking of drugs and were used to great and stylish effect.

Acting was pretty solid, especially Lena Heady as the firmly unglamorous Ma-Ma, a far cry from Cersei in Game of Thrones.  Karl Urban provided the Dredd frown and the Dredd growl  – all very Clint Eastwood but then Dredd is very Clint Eastwood, and I think you’d have to say that in general the adaptation was pretty faithful to the feel of the source material – I spotted a couple of nice nods, Chopper Graffiti and Fatties and so forth.  They didn’t really make any efforts to lift the lid and mine the hidden depths of Dredd’s character and motivations, they didn’t try to file off his brutal edges and sentimentalise him, and the film was a lot, lot better for it.  Action was sharp, ruthless and very genuinely 18 certificate luridly nasty, the judges even more remorseless than the perps, if anything, which I rather appreciated after some of the more sanitised and sentimental approaches I’ve seen taken recently.  If you’re going to show people being shot in the head, I’ve always felt you should take an honest look at the consequences rather than showing the victim bloodlessly toppling over, as in Total Recall.

Overall an uncompromising, uncluttered, unpretentious action film that stayed true to its roots and far from outstayed its welcome.  I very much hope Dredd rides again in this current incarnation…

Posted in film and tv by Joe Abercrombie on September 12th, 2012.

27 comments so far

  • Alex says:

    I enjoyed it & thought it was really well cast. Violence reminded me of the 80’s films like Recall & Running Man. Wasn’t thinking of The Raid while I watched it either, so that was a relief.

  • Thorne says:


    Going to see this tonight, hopefully.

    When you say he’s like Clint Eastwood, do you mean more 60’s and 70’s Clint or mad as a hatter republican convention Clint.

  • Slogra says:

    Why is Dredd getting such good reviews? I’m happy for it, but also super bamboozled. I assumed it would be as bad as the Total Recall and Robocop remakes, but it looks to be a winner. Comes out soon in the States, but not soon enough.

  • Jacob says:

    I’m convinced.

    Seeing this movie soon.

  • Ian says:

    I was skeptical, but based on your review (and other good things I’ve heard), I’ll have to give it a go.

    BTW, why no review of the Avengers?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I don’t know if it’s that much of a mystery – Dredd is just a far, far better film than Total Recall. For my money it’s a fair bit better than Dark Knight Rises too. I found Dark Knight to be a sheep in wolf’s clothing. Dredd is refreshingly free of sentimentality.

    Just haven’t seen Avengers yet. Probably will when it percolates down to cable.

  • Yojimboo says:

    Totally agree!
    Ultra-violent, gritty and no nonsense.
    A superb film and just how Dredd should be, I wholeheartedly recommend it. I hope this is the start of a many a foray into the rich treasure trove that is 2000AD.

  • Yojimboo says:

    … any other 2000AD characters you’d like to see Joe? Maybe Slaine vs the Bloody Nine!

  • Ian Hickman says:

    I personally found the 3D distracting, and as a result I ended up fixating on the whether or not the 3D was good and was it adding anything to the film. This fixation meant I wasn’t able to lose myself in the story as well as I’d like to have done, but on reflection, I think the film was very good. I’m absoultely positive when I rewatch the film on DVD I’ll enjoy it immensely.

    The film did remind of the violent sci-fi films that seemed to be more commonplace in the late 80s and early 90s, and that’s meant as a complement. Not as good as Robocop, but most things aren’t.

    I read somewhere the film needs to take around $50 million in the US to guarantee a sequel. Whilst I’m sure Dredd will gain a cult following, that does seem a rather high mark to reach. Still, here’s hoping.

  • I’m really, really glad to hear that. I’ve been sort of praying very hard that the reboot would be better than the version with Stallone. Not that it didn’t have a few good moments, but I wanted something a little closer to the source material.

  • Dan says:

    Can’t wait to see it. We have to wait another two weeks for it here in the US, which seems to be a recurring problem around here:(

  • Bryce says:

    Nasty, violent and unrelenting. Best comic book film since 300.

  • Jonathan says:

    Yeah, this was a good, good movie. Don’t think the %50 m mark should be TOO much of an issue, if word of mouth remains as good as it is. And yeah, it is indeed better than TDKR, though to be fair it wasn’t aiming as high.

  • Tomek says:

    i’m pretty confident that it will get a sequel, or should i say hopeful? it’s doing well and if reviews are anything togo by, more people should flock to cinemas towatch it. i agree that it was better than the Dark Knight Rises, something i definitely didn’t expect! i’m hoping for Cursed Earth sequel!

  • David says:

    Really looking forward to seeing this.

    From the trailor, Ma Ma is a bit like how I imagined Monza Murcatto coming across in film. How this bears up when watching the whole film is a different kettle of fish – any thoughts Joe?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Yeah, maybe, certainly I felt she was a good character, if making some rather crazy decisions at times. But then, hey, she’s crazy pretty much by definition. I think it was good they had a female villain who wasn’t glamorised, vamped up or ultra-sexified. She was a brutal, ruthless psycho who just happened to be a woman. I think Anderson wasn’t a bad female character either, actually, not that I’m necessarily the best judge. In fact, much though I had my issues with Dark Knight and had nothing but issues with Total Recall, they both seemed to have reasonable female characters as well, by their own lights. Nothing to pop the champagne over, maybe, but having been reminded of some of that wretched shit in the recent Conan the Barbarian, which somehow managed to make the 80s version look like a feminist tract, maybe we’re making progress. Maybe? Please?

  • Jonathan says:

    @Tomek- If they make a sequel, they have said the first one will be the Democracy arc and will have Chopper and Judge Cal as the villains, and will “explore the idea that Judge Dredd is a Fascist”. And the third will be about the Dark Judges.

    Also, they are thinking of making a TV series.

  • Tomek says:

    now that you’ve mentioned it, Jonathan, TV series could be just the thing, provided production value is as high as that of Game of Thrones fr instance!

    …and then they could get started on The First Law mini series!

  • AntMac says:

    Sure, he is, by our standards, a fascist.

    But maybe carrying an Axe and killing everyone who transgresses is the thing to do in the anarchy after an Atomic Holocaust?.

    I wonder if the Libyan people wouldn’t have liked 50 thousand Judges in place through their society, earlier this year, to protect their fledgling democracy by enforcing the rule of Law?.

    They have lost their chance of building a peaceful society, to the actions of 20 criminals. That is it for their democracy, all gone now, with not even a ghost of a chance of being regained.

    I like the idea of a Dark Judges movie trilogy, if only because it shows why you NEED the “Light” Judges.

  • Gary says:

    I’ve grown up reading 2000AD and one of my all time favourite Dredd characters was Judge Death.

    Joe, do you think Judge Death could work with the latest film incarnation of Dredd, or do you reckon it would be a step too far considering they are trying to make things more grounded?

    I’d love to see it, but because of the supernaturnal element of Judge Death, it would be very difficult to get right.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I understand Alex Garland (who wrote the film) has thought about a trilogy, and that they’d do the Democracy plotline (investigating the politics of Dredd) for the next one and the Dark Judges for the third. So they’re certainly thinking about it. They kept things pretty vague from a worldbuilding standpoint, and some of the film was quite dreamlike and used some pretty wild visuals, plus there was plenty to explore in the psychic angle, so I don’t see why it couldn’t work. Whether it would all depends on the implementation, really.

  • John F says:

    Saw this tonight and had a really great time with it. Most of the comments above sum it up pretty nicely. Great to see a tough, visceral, genuinely 18 certificate sci-fi action move. Reminded me of Verhoeven’s glory days.

    Now, if I can just get adaptations of Ro-Busters, Strontium Dog and Hook-Jaw, I’ll be a happy man.

  • AntMac says:

    I think there was not a lot wrong with the melange of plotlines they had in Stallones Dredd, myself.

    If it was written well, of course, there are intersections between many of the plots where you could, say, have Dredd dealing with Judge Cal, mopping up after he is killed, and reports come in about some simp in a Judge costume that seems bullet proof.

    Kind of the style the old Buster Crabbe “Buck Rodgers” used to do to announce a cliff-hanger that turned out to be the start of the plot of the next show. In the comics Dredds work doesn’t ever stop for the day, he just gets onto the next call from the Grand Hall.

  • Brian Turner says:

    The democracy arc was brilliant – there was a period between progs 550-600 when 2000AD seemed to grow up with a lot of its stories – not least Dave Gibbon’s Rogue Trooper and the brilliant inks on Slaine, Chopper, and Strontium Dog. And, of course, the Dead Man story that built up to Necropolis.

    Never really been able to go back to the mag since then – not least after prog 600 seemed to reverse everything – Rogue Trooper went back to the 80’s, Dredd had a rejuve job, and the whole tone seemed to go back to being a kids comic only, rather than cater for Mature Readers only.

    Then again, DC’s Vertigo: with Hellblazer, Sandman, and Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol; wasn’t far behind.

    That period in the early 90’s still feels like a heyday in comics and graphic novels, though perhaps I’m simply ignorant of what’s been released since.

    And am looking forward to seeing the new Dredd film – by all accounts, keeping to the original stories. Just missing that Ron Price artwork. 🙂

  • Jordan says:

    Just saw Dredd last night and I was quite happy with it. I thought most of the one-liners were perfect, Dredd was interesting–you could just see there was more going on under that helmet than we were seeing–and the action was disturbingly brutal like violence ought to be. I hate when violence is super stylized or glorified.

    There were some plot holes, but none that were so glaring as to ruin the film. And what it really did is make me want to read the source material. Never been a comic reader, but Dredd just might be my first foray into the medium.

  • Ant (@antallan) says:

    I hugely enjoyed it. Kudos to “Bones” for taking a role where you only ever see the lower part of his face. I think he nailed it.

    I wasn’t aware of _The Raid_ until a recent flight back from Tokyo. The synopsis sounded /very/ familiar, which is really why I watched it, but the characters and development were quite different. I’d say it was even more brutal than _Dredd_: I hope they don’t sanitise it for the US remake.


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