Forget the 1995 Sylvester Stallone starring disaster called Judge Dredd. Dredd 3D refreshing breath of fresh air in the action genre. It is a hard R rated film that pulls no punches and doesn’t bog you down with a story that is overly confusing. This film is all about the action. In fact, the film is almost one long action scene, broken up sparingly to provide bits of characterization. With amazing and effective special effects, a gruff hero to root for, a lovely trainee, and a whole building full of enemies to plow through, Dredd 3D delivers one of the best action films not just of the year, but since the ’80’s action heyday.
In the future, much of the United States is a wasteland. Humanity survives in Mega-City One, a city that stretches from Boston to New York City. The only thing maintaining order are the Judges, a police force that are judge, jury, and executioner. Unfortunately, they can only respond to a very minuscule amount of calls. When Judge Dredd is assigned a trainee Judge for assessment, they find themselves investigating a tripe homicide call at a Mega Block (a huge 200 story building) called Peach Trees. The building is under the control of Ma Ma, an ex-prostitute who moved into the building, wiped out the rival gangs, and took control. Selling a drug called Slo-Mo, which makes people who use it perceive time as moving a lot slower than normal, she rules the block with an iron fist. When the judges take a prisoner, Ma Ma locks down the building and gives the order to kill the Judges.
Directed by Pete Travis (Vantage Point) and written by Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine) Dredd 3D sticks very close to the original comic book source material. In fact, even with all the comic book films out there, it is one of the closest adaptations (I would argue that The Crow sticks just as close) to the source material ever. And let me put purists mind at ease . . .Dredd never takes his helmet off. Other than a brief glimpse of the back of Dredd’s head as he suits up, the helmet stays on.
Karl Urban (Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers) stars as Dredd. He is a grizzled veteran of the Judges with a reputation. He is above corruption, but doesn’t believe that the Judges make much of a difference. He performs his duties and his job, but has no delusions that what he is doing is making a difference in the grand scheme of things. He also does everything by the book.
Olivia Thirlby (United 93, Juno) plays Anderson, a woman who failed her Judges exam but is being given a second chance due to her powerful psychic abilities. She is partnered with Dredd for her evaluation. As a rookie, she is the heart and soul of the film. She is not a veteran, obviously, and isn’t as desensitized as Dredd is. She honestly believes that she can do some good as a Judge. Unfortunately, she is also slowing Dredd down as they attempt to reach Ma Ma. Not to mention the prisoner they take.
Lena Headey (300, Game of Thrones) plays Ma Ma, the evil drug/gang lord of Peach Trees. As an ex-prostitute she rules Peach Trees with an iron fist. She is pure evil and is without remorse. To kill the Judges, she will do anything and everything it takes, including destroying an entire floor and slaughtering the innocents that live there. In real life she is a beautiful woman. Here, she has a horribly scarred face, bad hair, and junkie teeth.
Thanks to the drug Slo-Mo, there are some stunning action scenes. Everything is slowed down while Dredd and Anderson bust into a 39th floor drug den. While it is impossible to describe, the carnage is somehow beautiful. The geysers of blood as Dredd shoots people through the cheek and head is strangely gorgeous and it is a curiosity that death and mayhem can be so beautiful. It is a standout scene that really showcases that this is a film that is willing to go places that we would not be allowed to see in a PG-13 film or a majority of R rated films as well.
I enjoyed Dredd 3D immensely. While it is not necessarily a throwback to the ’80’s heyday of action films, it somehow channels the visceral feeling that films like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard had. While Dredd doesn’t spurt one liners like John McClane, he is more grizzled; a combination of Roger Murtaugh and John McClane. I honestly kept waiting for him to say “I’m too old for this shit.”
If you are a fan of action films, you will find a lot to love in this film. If you are a comic book fan, you will find a lot to love in this film. If you are interested in seeing The Help Part 2, this film isn’t for you. Dredd 3D is a superior action film and deserves to be seen in the theater. You will not regret it. It is highly entertaining and I cannot wait to see it again.
***1/2 out of ****
- Dredd 3-D update (bizzammovienews.com)
- Exclusive: Writer Alex Garland Discusses Dredd 3D, the Future of the 28 Days Later Franchise and More (dreadcentral.com)