Fantastic Fest 2012: 'Dredd 3D' Packs a Very Hard, Very Cool Punch
by Jeremy Kirk
September 21, 2012
Dredd 3D succeeds in simplicity where the 1995 Sylvester Stallone action flick, Judge Dredd, failed in ambition. The comics clearly have a rich mythology, but when it comes to futuristic law enforcers taking out bad guys in a post-apocalyptic city, what more is needed than kickass, hard-hitting action? Dredd delivers in abundance. There isn't much depth here, but any ideas that should go further than the surface are quickly forgotten under hails of bullets, furies of hand-to-hand strikes, and awesome blasts of violence that make Punisher: War Zone comparisons more than flattering. Dredd kicks ass, and that's all it needs to do.
Actor Karl Urban and the gigantic helmet should share credit as Dredd, a Judge in the future environment of Mega City One. Stretching from Boston to Washington DC, the city is home to 800 million people packing themselves in to keep away from the wasteland that has taken over most of the country. The Judges are the law, acting as all forms of the judicial branch and carrying out swift justice, usually in the form of extremely fast bullets flying at the criminals' heads. When a new drug called Slo-Mo — it slows the users perception of time to 1% normal speed — hits the streets, Dredd and his new partner Anderson, a rookie with telepathic abilities played by Olivia Thirlby, are called to investigate. The duo finds itself trapped inside a skyscraper of an apartment complex with hundreds of baddies seeking their blood and a sadistic crime lord, played by Lena Headey, calling the shots from the penthouse. Things get explosive in a hurry.
Director Peter Travis and writer/producer Alex Garland have clear intentions with what they want to do with this story and even the story they wanted to tell with the Judge Dredd character specifically. The film opens establishing Mega City One complete with Dredd narration explaining the world. You know, in case you didn't see the Stallone movie and haven't read the comics, but the setup is ancillary. We see Dredd preparing for a mission, suiting up in Judge's armor and that massive helmet, and from there the helmet never comes off. All we know or need to know about the film's protagonist is made clear in an opening chase sequence that gets the fierce ball rolling.
The action in Dredd isn't particularly fast, but there's definitely an R-rated fury to all of it. Multiple head shots, people being crushed, blown up, skinned, and generally beat about until they're little more than bloody pulps is just some of the buffet of carnage Travis and Garland pick from, and that's just in the first 10 minutes. There's very little in the way of down-time between action set pieces and even less in the form of development of the movie's hero. Dredd serves as a reintroduction to a character few may know, and the rebriefing found here has little to do with the character more than his devotion to the law and his ability to serve out justice without a second thought. It plays more like a one-off episode of a "Judge Dredd" TV show, a day-long mission where the only progression of the series comes in the Dredd/Anderson partnership.
The dynamics between most of the characters are standard, action fare. Dredd and Anderson obviously have the strongest bond here, but even that comes off like an instructor preparing a newbie for the worst and hoping she either passes or fails with her life still intact. The action, on the other hand, finds inventive ways of presenting itself, each bullet-laden scene playing out a bit differently from the previous one. The Slo-Mo drug is an aspect that lends for very creative, often very beautiful slow motion shots. It's rare that slow motion has a reason for being in action movies, usually acting as gimmick instead of creating interesting points of view, but Dredd handles the technique with skill both in terms of concept and execution.
There isn't much room between barrages of violence for the actors here to show their talents. The lower half of Urban's face sits on angry grimace for the bulk of the film, his eyes completely useless behind the opaque visor. Let's just say Tom Hardy had more to work with with Bane. Thirlby acts and reacts as expected, but her skills come about when she keeps the telepathic moments from spilling into laughable territory. The real stand-out in this department is in Headey's antagonist. She does a fine job creating intimidation while holding back on what could easily have been a scenery-chewing cartoon. She's never more developed than the one note of a crime lord, but even with that, Headey scowls, screams, and scathes with a subdued anger.
The rest of the film is less subdued, running up its body count with each, passing celebration of explosion and violence that packs a mean wallop. Aided by a truly badass score by Paul Leonard-Morgan, Dredd is the kind of movie that has the audience's collective fist pumping in the air, filling a hole for junkies who want more than run-of-the-mill offerings with stagnant action. It's thin, extremely thin, and the lack of character or rich story is what ultimately keeps it from being a great film. However, the hits keep on hitting hard with Dredd, a cool, quick bump of an action film that will get your heart going on numerous occasions. The film knows what it needs to do, and just like its main character, there's no rest until its job is done.
Jeremy's Fantastic Fest Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Reader Feedback - 19 Comments
Ashley Beeching on Sep 21, 2012
Crom on Sep 21, 2012
Good review. I was actually glad there wasn't much character developement with Dredd, the rookie got enough developement to get me invested and no more. Thats all I needed The end was a lil anticlimactic. They needed to prove that Dredd could outsmart the villain at that point. Telepathic, telekinetic is when you can move things with your mind
Richie G on Sep 21, 2012
Fixed. Thanks for the correction.
Jeremy Kirk on Sep 21, 2012
Ah, you're welcome
Richie G on Sep 21, 2012
Thank You Travis. Well Done. AND WHATS YOUR NEXT
Ehsan Davodi on Sep 21, 2012
Ehsan! Long time no see.
Manuel on Sep 21, 2012
Hello Manuel I'm sensored by my government in my country. Can't tell more. Occasionally reach for Internet dude. Sent from my iPod
Ehsan Davodi on Sep 21, 2012
Are you still wanted by your goverment for a crime you did not commit?
Manuel on Sep 22, 2012
Not in that shape manual. Im working with iPod. In my strange country everything got FILTER such as hollywood and foreign movie things. I think you don't believe this. Anyway I can't get into firstshowing with iPod but sometimes I go in this lovely and important cinematic site with something else. For that I must go to one of Internet stations in my country. This is strange. I can't write anymore with iPod , Just can see the site and read comments. When I go into writing box with iPod everything be gone! But with computer or labtob everything is ok. I think writing box got filter. I don't know how. In my country if one of government men understand I'm writing on hollywoodian site they prison me for spying! Not Kidding! Write more and more Manuel. I read your comments(I mean reading everyone Sent from my iPod
Ehsan Davodi on Sep 22, 2012
Well-written review. Judging from the trailers, I wasn't excited for this, but now I can't wait!
David on Sep 21, 2012
good review mate!
kelly on Sep 21, 2012
it could have been complete and utter shit and STILL be better than Stallones version.....
Jericho on Sep 21, 2012
You pretty much nailed the film with this review. It is mindless and graphic violence at its finest. If you expect any defined narrative you'll be disappointed, so don't, it's pure action and it doesn't stop. Saw it at TIFF, and I haven't heard a crowd make that much noise based on excitement in a while. It's worth a theatre view. No question.
AJ on Sep 21, 2012
I felt that it was a like an extended trailer for a future Dredd project which I am completely up for now. Would love a Dredd TV show, like Law and Order but with more violence and no lawyers.
Gearoid O'D on Sep 21, 2012
I'd love this! no detective work either. just Justice!
bat0u on Sep 21, 2012
As long as people know what they're in for, they'll enjoy this. I'm psyched for this popcorn action movie.
Nick Sears on Sep 21, 2012
great review! I am pumped to see this one!
Avi Smulders on Sep 22, 2012
Saw this tonight finally. This movie transformed Dredd from a two dimensional character to a true three dimensional character. This movie showed the horror that mega city 1 is. LOVED IT!
Samuel Sprayberry on Oct 22, 2012
Sorry, new comments are no longer allowed.