It’s been 17 years since England’s hyper-violent law-enforcement officer was last embarrassingly seen on screen. (Possibly literally, as I doubt many were clamoring for Stallone’s marble-mouthed flop on their DVD shelves.) But it’s a new millenium, and the 21st century feel more appropriate for Judge Dredd anyway, so there’s a new attempt to film a character who had been one of cinema’s most notorious failures. Could this possibly have been a good idea? Should the character’s fans be willing to trust Hollywood again? Should mainstream audiences be willing to give the character another chance?
The answer to all those questions is an unqualified yes. Dredd 3D (by the way, I will never be happy about studios putting “3D” in the title of a film) is not only the film that Judge Dredd fans wanted, it’s the film that fans of most comic book franchises want.* It’s faithful to its source material without being a boring copy and it’s joyfully, gleefully violent. Which, of course, is what one expects to see when buying a ticket to a Judge Dredd movie, what you don’t expect is for that movie to be so goddamn pretty.
Dredd 3D‘s director Pete Travis (also of Vantage Point) takes full advantage of the 3D and the effects of the drug Slo-Mo, on which the plot hinges, to create some truly gorgeous visuals. Slow-motion, 3-Dimensional gore is far more balletic than it has any right to be.
And while we’re on the subject of gore, though it may be true that most of the splatter in the film is CGI, it’s well-done and near constant. With few exceptions I doubt Dredd 3D ever goes much longer than 90 seconds without someone getting something blown off. This is a supremely violent film and makes no apologies for it. You really should leave the kids at home for this one.
Star Trek‘s Karl Urban does his best pouty scowl when he puts on Dredd’s helmet (and for the many of you for which this is the only criteria of the film’s quality, no he never takes it off). The best way to describe his performance is to compare him to Hugh Jackman as Wolverine – he’s not who you’d picture in the part (not the right build, his previous work doesn’t lend itself, etc), but once you see him in the movie it totally clicks.
The plot’s fairly straightforward – Judges Dredd and Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) are locked in a giant apartment tower and have to get to the crimelord MaMa (Lena Headey) at the top floor while everyone’s trying to kill them. This small-scale story works very well, as it allows for much more tension than some crazy nonsense about getting framed for murder and finding out you’re a clone.
Simply put, Dredd 3D is a damn good time. If you’re a fan of the books, go see it. If you’re a fan of action movies, go see it.
I give it 8 HILARIOUS CORPSE CLEAN-UP ROBOTS out of 10.
* – Though that last part might not always be for the best, for example see all the fans who think every comic book movie needs to be R-rated.