Dredd 3D Review
September 21st, 2012
First and foremost, I must admit when I first saw the Dredd Trailer, before 'The Dark Knight Rises' I was pretty psyched considering the '95 version of the film sucked SO much. Don't get me wrong, Stallone was awesome, but he did not fit that mold at ALL. That movie was an utter disaster and it actually was nominated for being the worst film ever made on multiple occasions. Rob Schneider? Really? It was an awesome movie in a "guy movie" sense, but by no means anything to remotely consider a good film.
Fast forward to today with the premiere of Dredd 3D featuring Karl Urban as Judge Dredd, Lena Headley as the psychopath whor*-turned-druglord nicknamed "Ma-ma", and Olivia Thirlby as the rookie Cassandra Anderson.
First off I'd like to say that this film got nearly everything right, granted that the source material is very predictable and there isn't a whole lot of working room. From the opening chase scene to the perpetual-escalation of events leading up to the end of the film it felt like one wild ride. Dredd is a cold, brutal executioner for the Hall of Justice in the novels of old, and reflects this 100% accurately in the film. The feature of having the rookie (Thirlby) as a psychic was a great touch to counterbalance Dredd's rigid and for the most part, one-dimensional character. Headley's Ma-ma is portrayed as a sadistic, selfish individual and this type of portrayal works very well considering her prior work in the HBO hit "Game of Thrones". She plays a self-appointed gang leader who has taken all 200 floors of the "peach tree" apartment complex by conquest. She has also addicted nearly all of the tenants on the drug "Slow-Mo" that her gang produces. More on that later.
The film is straightforward enough from the opening credits and feels like one big action sequence with cause and effect continually in-step with each other as each minute progresses. Since Dredd's character is based on ruthless violence to carry out a fascist style of law against the citizens of Mega City One, the role of rookie Anderson's assessment (with Dredd as her "instructor" if you will) proves to be the experience that brings out Dredd's respect for her character even though he never really changes his own. Cassandra's character is that of a psychic; the most powerful of which the Hall of Justice has ever encountered. Even with Cassandra's gifts, she marginally failed the examination to become a Judge. Cassandra gets one additional chance to prove herself under none other than Dredd himself. The film works not only as an action movie, but as a character study and additionally as a paradigm of absolute power corruption. Judges-for-hire as mercenaries illustrate the corruption and the way Dredd confronts them arguably represents their eventual destruction. This is a good element of the film, but is overlooked due to the predictability of the plot. It illustrates that not one person is completely innocent, no matter who the focus of the film becomes. We also see that even those who strive to be legitimate heroes are prone to the flaws that exist symbiotically with the human condition.
Without spoiling anything, I will say that this film (as a character study) definitely feels like Doom, considering Karl Urban played the main character in both. The blessing with a film like Dredd 3D is that here the character is supposed to be based on source material, and is. Since the graphic novels depicted Dredd as an unflinching, emotionless embodiment of the law, the film works even better than just about every other film with the same plot structure. Nearly every fabric of what made Stallone's Dredd bad was rewritten and executed perfectly with Urban's. Ma-Ma has some backstory explained in the early film here with very graphic (and gory) flashbacks and the Anderson-Perp "interrogation" scene gets quite suggestive without being explicit. For this reason the content of the film was always appropriate, mirroring the source material where required in an almost "artful" way. It should also be noted that never once in the entire film does Dredd show his face (the helmet never comes off). This allows Urban to portray Dredd as not only a metaphor to a physical-yet-faceless embodiment of the law, but also as a rigid, uncompromising figure who displays all of the allegedly unbiased qualities of a Judge, Jury or Executioner. What more could you ask for in a portrayal of Dredd?
Since the film was predictable (as we knew it would be), I can't with good conscience give the Story a good rating, however the acting and directing were as great as they could be considering that they were dependent on budget and plot simplicity. I would also like to add that the 3D in this film should not be dismissed as a gimmick. The 3D is used VERY well and I base that on being convinced that I was present in the action scenes. The "bullet-time" or "slow mo" sequences only added to the excitement since they seemed to invoke a sense of being on the "Slow-Mo" drug itself.
In conclusion, this film was an excellent achievement for the typical B-grade action movie. It's hyper-violent without being "grindhouse-y", and more of a character study than constant explosions. There's no overacting here, and the visuals are all top-notch. Dredd 3D plays exactly as you would expect it to start to finish, and I wouldn't have it any other way. My recommendation is to splurge a bit and see it in 3D since it's well worth the extra money. This is an accurate adaption of Judge Dredd. I'm glad this reboot succeeded because if it hadn't, Dredd would have been dead for good.