The notoriously poor 1995 interpretation of Judge Dredd, featuring Sylvester Stallone, left a bitter taste for many comic book fans. The basic aim of Dredd 3D is simple; deliver a gruesome, garish and bold version of the character true to the original works in 2000 AD. There is good news for Judge Dredd fans. Pete Travis’s savage, visceral, bone crunchingly violent interpretation of John Wagner’s futuristic law enforcer is the film you’ve been waiting for. Unfortunately, those who aren’t aware of the comic books will find the film a completely senseless misfire.
Dredd sticks out from the crowd amongst recent comic book films. In a time where most heroes are shown as emotionally fragile, to allow audiences to connect and empathize, Dredd steps out cold, cool, heartless, and without so much as a character backstory. Karl Urban, not the most recognizable or bankable actor working, does his best from behind the helmet imitating a Clint Eastwood voice. Unlike the Stallone version, Urban is forced to keep his helmet on, limiting most of his performance to mouth contortions and body movements. It’s not the easiest story to sell either. Most people will find it reminiscent of Indonesian action film, The Raid: Redemption. Yet even still, Dredd is an efficient and entertaining action movie, with a few memorable moments, eccentric kills and tons of one-liners.
The film opens in a post-apocalyptic Cape Town, umm I mean Mega City, where Judge Dredd is on patrol. He is in pursuit of an armed gang causing havoc on the roads, killing innocent bystanders while inhaling a drug called Slo-Mo. The drug has a bizarre effect allowing users to experience life in slow motion. At the forefront of the drug cartel is Ma-Ma, a crime boss who controls an entire tenement apartment building called Peach Trees. Dredd is assigned a rookie, Anderson, a judge with psychic abilities. Their very first assignment together is a triple homicide at Peach Trees. After a brief examination and a drug bust, they discover that their prisoner is Ma-Ma’s henchman. Together, Dredd and Anderson must fight their way out, killing off the inhabitants of the building.
The over saturated slow-motion sections showcasing the effects of the “Slow-Mo Drug” are awesome and probably the highlight of the film. They might not be made with the highest budget, but they are fun and convincing enough to keep you excited. Dredd places you firmly in the science fiction world, which at points feels like an attractive music video. The story is completely irrelevant right from the start. This film is about visuals and big action scenes that keep your heart pumping throughout.
Special mention should be made of Lena Headey (Ma-Ma), who continues to play the role of sinister villainess. Headey seems to have her acting method down when it comes to these sort of roles, playing dark, heartless characters with ease.
When you set Dredd against the previous 1995 attempt it comes up tops, but doesn’t meet the standard of the more recent Avengers or Dark Knight Rises. Even still, it’s an exciting rollercoaster ride. Unfortunately, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.