Dredd 3D, 2012.
Directed by Pete Travis.
Starring Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Langley Kirkwood, Wood Harris, Luke Tyler, Junior Singo, Jason Cope, Domhnall Gleeson and Rakie Ayola.
Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) teams up with rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) to take down a gang that’s flooding the streets of Mega City One with a reality-altering drug called SLO-MO.
With the smell of Sylvester Stallone’s 1995 effort to bring 2000AD’s most popular character to the big screen now a distant memory, it’s the turn of independent British company DNA Films to give see if Judge Dredd can make it on the silver screen.
Based upon the bestselling comic, Dredd 3D sees Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) and rookie mutant Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) investigate a triple homicide at Peace Trees, a 200 story housing project which is run by former prostitute and current drug peddler Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). Upon discovering Dredd and Anderson have arrested one of her men who might give away information about her Slo-Mo drug, Ma-Ma seals off Peace Trees with just one order for its residents – kill the Judges.
What I really like about the plot for Dredd 3D is that it’s not a contrived set-up of an over-bearing crime lord with plans of world domination that only Dredd has to take down; instead we are given what is essentially, ‘a day in the life of Judge Dredd’. Even when things go from bad to worse, there is this over sensing burden that this sort of thing happens to our hero all the time and it’s just part of the day-to-day life of a Judge in Mega City One. It really sets the tone of the dangers of living in this metropolis of crime and acts as a fantastic looming dark cloud over the film.
Taking on the Dredd role this time round is Karl Urban who, as someone who grew up a massive fan of the comic book, shines in a role he clearly cares about getting right. He had a small part to play in the script writing process too by mainly removing a good portion of Dredd’s dialogue to better reflect the character. Not only does Urban look the part of 2000AD’s signature figure, he also acts the part. While never going to win an Oscar for his performance, Urban’s take on Judge Dredd is a short step away from perfect. His voice, his poise, his delivery – it’s exactly how it should be. Oh, and he doesn’t take his helmet off either.
Thirlby doesn’t let Urban outshine her however. Her role as psychic rookie Anderson is not only vital to the story, it’s also very entertaining to watch. She also has one of the best scenes in the movie which is one hell of a rollercoaster ride of visuals. I won’t go into too much detail here, but it’s a great example of just how visceral this movie is.
The style of the movie is fantastic. From the beautiful detail from the super slow motion to the gritty reality of Mega City One, director Pete Travis rarely takes a step wrong. They even come up with a reason just to have super slow motion shots by calling the drug that causes them Slo-Mo. I was concerned from the first 20 minutes that the Slo-Mo drug induced super slow motion would hamper my enjoyment of the film because it was too slow and used too often, but luckily its used a few times to establish its purpose and then is left only for vital scenes. Dredd 3D not only boasts a wonderful style, it also proudly displays some superb 80s action movie ethics.
One of the best things about Dredd 3D being made outside of the Hollywood system is that that the filmmakers didn’t have the studio overheads making sure they were making a movie that would appeal to a mass audience so that they may aim for that ‘billion dollar mark’ and contend with summer comic book blockbusters such as The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. Instead we get a Judge Dredd movie that the filmmakers wanted to make that would reflect the comic they have such a fondness for. Because of this fact, Dredd 3D is a movie that does not hold back. Foul language from the get go, RoboCop levels of violence and a body count that would rival Rambo, Dredd 3D is a bloody, violent, grimy and vicious movie – and it’s all the better for it. Make no bones about it, this is not the watered down Stallone movie we were treated to in ’95.
However the film is far from perfect. Dredd 3D does feature some troubling pacing issues and it does feel as though our characters are wandering around aimlessly for most of the second act. It takes a little while for the plot to fully kick in and the simple act of survival is not enough to carry a good 40 minutes of movie. By the time the plot does kick in, it almost feels like it’s too late and there is even a pretty lame plot contrivance added in to inject some drama and character development into the movie which amounts not nothing more than a ‘bad guy monologue’. It didn’t ruin the film for me, but it did feel incredibly pointless.
Pacing issues aside, Dredd 3D is a really, really good movie. It’s everything you could have wanted from a Judge Dredd movie and it will surely entertain its over-18 audience. Fans of the comic will enjoy its faithfulness to tone and non-fans will get a kick from the over the top bloodshed, colourful language and superb visuals. It might not be the best movie you see all year, but it will be one of the most entertaining.
And best of all, not a Rob Schneider in sight.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★