The Sci-Fi Action Movie That Fought A Stallone Disaster And Won, Stream It Without Netflix

This review is judge, jury, and executioner.

By Joshua Tyler | Published

Dredd review

In the 2012 sci-fi movie Dredd, Karl Urban attempted to scowl away the sting of the Judge Dredd franchise’s abominable 1995 predecessor and succeeded in spite of bare-minimum budget restrictions, which dull the futuristic world of Mega City One.

Based on a series of comics created in the seventies and not at all on that awful Sly Stallone movie no one remembers fondly, Dredd tells the story of a dystopian future where mankind lives in one massive, crime-ridden city. To combat out-of-control criminals, the court system has been simplified and now specialized police officers called “Judges” serve as both judge, jury, and executioner. They aren’t servants of justice; they are the law.

Karl Urban as Judge Dredd in Dredd
Karl Urban as Judge Dredd in Dredd

Dredd embodies this more than any other; as played by Karl Urban he’s a scowling figure who isn’t so much a man as a symbol given form. He never removes his helmet and we never learn anything about the person he is underneath. He is justice: incorruptible, unbiased, and unstoppable. Urban’s brilliant here, scowling and stomping through the movie while dishing out executions to those who have it coming and sometimes those who just happen to get in the way.

Locked inside a giant mega-building he finds himself saddled with a rookie (played by Olivia Thirlby) and battling an entire criminal organization. It’s controlled by Lena Headey, who, unfortunately, doesn’t get much to do except kill people and look angry.

Olivia Thirlby in Dredd
Olivia Thirlby in Dredd

Heady’s character doesn’t have much of a personality. The plot is simple, and so are its specifics. The villains are killers, and the Judges are their executioners. Game on.

That lack of personality extends to the look of the film. Actually, maybe it’s the source of it. The thing is, Dredd isn’t a big-money Hollywood production. It’s clear they were working with a pretty small budget, particularly for an action movie of a futuristic scale.

Lena Headey in Dredd
Lena Headey in Dredd

The script helps compensate for this by confining most of the movie to a single building, but it’s hard not to notice that the future looks kind of like the present. Actually, it looks exactly like the present.

In fact the only thing about Dredd that differentiates it from any other cop versus criminals movie is Dredd himself, and so it’s up to Urban to carry the movie. He does, and the result is one of the most underrated action movies ever made.

Dredd sci-fi review
Karl Urban fighting criminals in Dredd

Dredd is good and worth your time, whether you’re a fan of the character or not. It’s also worth streaming if you’ve previously seen the Stallone version, if only to wipe from your memory that 90s Hollywood disaster with Rob Schneider as a sidekick.

Karl Urban is the law. The only law we need.


Dredd is available to stream for free on Peacock and available to rent or purchase on most other streaming platforms.