Many people only think of this film, from the director of the boring Vantge Point, as a remake of the goofy Sylvester Stallone film but this story first came to life in comic books. That’s right, we have another comic book film here.
Dredd 3D tells the story of a post-apocalyptic United States with only one giant city remaining surrounded by massive walls. The name of the city: Mega City. The only thing standing between the crime threatening to overtake the city and the good people are the Judges, cops that have complete control of how criminals are handled. They are literally judge, jury, and if necessary executioner. Judge Dredd has been given the menial task of testing a rookie to determine if she is eligible to become a full-fledged judge. She failed her written tests but Dredd’s bosses want to give her another chance because she is special. I won’t reveal what’s special about her as it was not revealed in the ads either. Suffice it to say that she completely changes Dredd’s job.
He and his new partner take a call to a giant 200 hundred story all inclusive building where two people have been gruesomely murdered. The ads made the set up feel a lot like another film Called The Raid Redemption ( a fantastic film by the way). The truth is that some elements are similar but the movies are thematically completely different. Within this building are drug addicts hooked on a drug called slo-mo. The drug makes the brain see things moving at 1% normal speed. The drugged out scenes are the true sweet spot for the 3-D. At one point a character is relaxing in the tub at the beginning of the film and enjoying the effects of the drug as she splashes in the water. We in turn enjoy it because the look and effect is completely beautiful.
One might expect Urban to do his best Stallone but he’s actually channeling more Dirty Harry in this version of Dredd. There’s really nothing goofy about this film at all unless you happen to find the uniforms somewhat comical. Dredd 3-D is unapologetically brutal and bloody and gratuitous. This is grindhouse scifi in 3-D and we love it. Lena Headey is wonderfully drugged out, violent, and insane; almost unrecognizable compared to her other genre roles in The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Game of Thrones.
Dredd 3D is exhilarating, shocking and shockingly beautiful. The film absolutely pulls no punches and there will be a scene or two that may truly knock you out of your comfy theater seat. There are a few flaws, mostly in the lack of character development. Well, there almost is no character development. Headey’s character gets a rap sheet sort of development but it too is pretty damn shocking in the way it’s shot. Dredd gets a little purposeful mystery added to his character. Was this done in hopes of developing him more in a future film? This flaw is so outweighed by the roller coaster feel of the film and the unabashed story that it just doesn’t matter. This may be one of the most truly unadulterated stories to hit theaters this year and for that reason alone it deserves recognition. The film is low budget, but every dollar is on screen and used with precision. I joked with a friend that there must have been six production company names listed at the beginning of the film. There is one interesting section at the end of the film that’s riddled with digital noise, not film grain, actual digital noise. It looks like camcorder footage shot in too low of light. As a low budget filmmaker myself I loved seeing it but in the end I wonder why it was kept in the film. A director commentary on the eventual blu-ray should be interesting.