In 1995, waning action star Sylvester Stallone entered the comic book-to-screen adaptation in a rather disappointing way. Maybe it was the poor script, glossy set pieces, comedic foil Rob Schneider, or simply just Sly’s ego. Either way, the first appearance of “Judge Dredd” in film was a total bust and has been a steady punchline for the better part of the last seventeen years. Fast forward to the future, to 2012 (pun intended), and another group of filmmakers and actors have chosen to bring the cult U.K. comic “2000 AD” to life on the silver screen. Luckily for fans of true action cinema and its source material, all is good if not outstanding in the 2012 film, “Dredd 3D” (R).
The plot of “Dredd 3D” gets to the point just like the firing of the judge’s gun- at rapid fire speed. The opening voiceover explains that the future America is an irradiated hell scape. On its East Coast, running from Boston to Washington DC, lies Mega City One – a violent metropolis where criminals rule the streets. One of these criminals comes in the form of Ma-Ma played by Lena Headey, (300, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) a maniacal kingpin peddling the highly addictive “SLO-MO,” a drug that has users experience reality at a fraction of its normal speed. It is up to the optimus Judge Dredd- a no nonsense law man dispensing by the book justice on the spot, paired with his new recruit Anderson (Olivia Thirlby- Juno, The Wackness), a rookie with psychic abilities. Their mission is to end Ma-Ma’s stranglehold on one of the city’s major block buildings.
The 2012 film team didn’t take any chances toying with the legendary judge’s return. Gone is the empty glamor project of it’s predecessor, making this loyal adaption a visceral, bleak, bloody experience with truck loads of balls and brawn. Action star Karl Urban (Star Trek, The Chronicles of Riddick) fills Dredd’s trademark helmet in this entry. The New Zealand born actor was born to play this role, and as soon as you see him speed up on the judge bike during the film’s opening moments you can feel it. Right off the bat it must be said that most of Urban’s face is never revealed in the film, as this version stays true to the comic where Dredd’s helmet is never removed. Therefore Urban’s job is twice as hard as he only uses the lower half of his face to emote for any given scene. From dark jokes to gang member executions, each emotion comes through to the viewer in a blunt and clear manner without little question as to how he feels.
As stated previously, the film’s eagerness to move scenes quickly ahead, does not waste a minute of screen time. Credit goes to the tight direction and writing of Pete Travis and Alex Garland respectively. The audience isn’t at this movie to see Urban and Thirlby stand around lamenting about minutia or in some- “Will they or won’t they?”, sexual attraction setup. The filmmaking team and viewer know those scenes would ultimately slow down or even ruin the movie. Instead we are given a tight ninety-five minute battle through a bleak, rundown highrise filled with baddies all looking to be the one to kill Dredd for Ma-Ma. Sure Urban’s Dredd has plenty of one-liners to give the audience a few chuckles, but be aware: this is a serious, gritty, extremely violent throwback to the action/sci-fi flicks many of us love and have been craving for quite sometime. Well fans, it’s time to rejoice because “Dredd 3D” is exactly that movie and then some.
There is absolutely no holding back when it comes to onscreen violence. This factor becomes even more apparent with the addition of 3D to the mix. The entire film was shot on 3D film, unlike others which are post-converted and therefore lack the same depth. The movie is loaded with scenes of “SLO-MO” users under the influence in first person perspective, giving the viewer a trippy and sometimes nauseating (not a bad thing, just be ready) experience especially when something horrific is going down around them. “Dredd 3D” does exactly what it set out to do, it entertains mercilessly. If the film performs well we can definitely expect a sequel. So, hopefully theatergoers will show up. They better, because in the end, “he is the law.”
“Dredd 3D” starring Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, and Lena Headey is rated R, has a runtime of 95 minutes and is released in theaters everywhere on Friday, September 21st.
- Jay Rubin