The vast majority of American comic book fans may have very little familiarity with Judge Dredd, a character who has headlined the weekly comics serial, 2000 AD for 46 years. However, Dredd is considered to be an iconic character in British comics, and fans in the U.K. can’t seem to get enough of his sci-fi adventures in the far future of Mega-City One (which spans most of the East Coast of the former United States of America). In this world, there are no police. There are only those who serve as judge, jury, and executioner. And among the Judges, Judge Joseph Dredd is considered to be the very best.
Judge Dredd’s popularity was so great that Sylvester Stallone headlined the first Judge Dredd movie in 1995. But that movie toned down the edges that made Judge Dredd so compelling, and the film even gave Dredd a wacky sidekick played by Rob Schneider. So perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that Judge Dredd isn’t currently on any streaming service. Conversely, the 2012 reboot, Dredd, is currently enjoying a massive surge in popularity after it joined the top 10 most popular movies on Netflix.
Dredd wasn’t any more of a success than Judge Dredd was at the box office, but it’s very well-made and it has attracted a cult following in the 11 years since its release. But if you’re on the fence about this one, we can share three reasons why you should watch Dredd on Netflix.
Karl Urban has geek cred like few other actors, going back to his appearances in Xena: Warrior Princess, the Riddick films, the Star Trek reboot trilogy, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He has also lined up memorable comic book roles, including Skurge in Thor: Ragnarok and Billy Butcher in The Boys. But Urban’s performance as Dredd is his best genre role to date. Unlike Stallone, Urban committed to one of the key aspects of Judge Dredd’s lore: He never shows his full face.
Urban also embodied Dredd’s character more completely than Stallone did. There aren’t many redeeming aspects of Dredd’s personality, and he tends to be fairly rigid about how he dispenses justice. When Dredd says “I am the law,” you really believe that he means it thanks to Urban. And yet, Dredd does show a small measure of humanity in this movie near the end when he gives his evaluation of Anderson. Make no mistake, Dredd is not an old softy at heart. Dredd is just Dredd, and we appreciate just how comic-book-accurate he is in this movie.
This may be lost on non-comic book readers, but Cassandra Anderson isn’t Dredd’s sidekick in the comics. She’s his equal, and Anderson has headlined her own spinoff stories for decades. That said, the filmmakers came up with a novel way to include Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) in this movie as a rookie judge under Dredd’s command. It may be a departure from the source material, but Thirlby’s interplay with Urban gives Dredd some semi-buddy comedy vibes. More importantly, Anderson is able to display a lot of empathy and vulnerability that Dredd himself can not.
Additionally, the movie doesn’t lose sight of Anderson’s telepathic abilities. Although Anderson is not quite as powerful as her comic book counterpart, some of the most visually arresting moments in the film revolve around her mental powers. Especially the scene where Anderson turns the tables on Kay (Wood Harris) by letting him believe he’s in control before giving him some very unpleasant surprises.
Dredd had a considerably lower budget than the previous Judge Dredd film. That may be one of the reasons why the futuristic Mega-City One seems decidedly less high-tech in this movie. But what Dredd lacks in visual effects it more than makes up with its action. This is an R-rated action film from start to finish, and it plays more like the Indonesian film The Raid than any other comic book flick. For most of the movie, Dredd and Anderson are trapped in a 200-floor apartment complex that is under the control of a drug lord named Madeline “Ma-Ma” Madrigal (Lena Headey). To get to Ma-Ma, the Judges literally have to fight their way from floor to floor.
Even if you don’t care for sci-fi flicks, the action in Dredd is top-notch. And if more comic book movies were this exciting then maybe the non-Marvel superhero flicks wouldn’t be struggling so much at the box office right now.
Watch Dredd on Netflix.