Remember when the name Dredd used to conjure up actual feelings of dread? That was back when Stallone’s “Judge Dredd” was the only film featuring the comic book character. After you see the Pete Travis reboot “Dredd 3D” though, you’ll just think happy thoughts from now on. That’s because “Dredd 3D” is everything the Stallone flick should have been and then some.
For those unfamiliar with Judge Dredd’s mythology, the character’s story is set in a grim future where much of America has become a wasteland. Stretching from Boston to Washington DC is Mega City One, a sprawling violent metropolis. The only keepers of order are urban cops called Judges who have the power to act as judge, jury, and on-site executioner.
In this reboot, Judge Dredd (Karl Urban), the ultimate Judge, is assigned the difficult tasks of eliminating a drug epidemic and evaluating a rookie (Olivia Thirlby) at the same time. Dredd and his new partner are put to the test when an investigation takes them to a 200-story slum controlled by the kingpin Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her gang of murderous thugs.
The primary thing working in its favor is that “Dredd 3D” takes a more grounded approach to the Judge Dredd character. Since we now live an Internet era where fan opinion is important, the filmmakers seem more interested in delivering comic buffs what they want, than producing mediocre crap like Stallone’s “Judge Dredd” that no one enjoys. And thank god, because that’s why “Dredd 3D” is so much better.
Gone are the killbots, hovercycles, evil twin, comedic sidekick, and cloning elements. What’s left is a dark, dystopian tale that’s one part gory action flick, one part social satire, and one part tense thriller. The extreme violence and satire are very much an amusing throwback to films of the late 80s/early 90s such as “The Running Man,” “RoboCop,” and “Total Recall.”
Like those movies, thankfully “Dredd 3D” doesn’t take itself too seriously. Dredd has some hilarious one-liners, including a well-placed moment for his catchphrase “I am the law.” Karl Urban’s deadpan delivery and brilliant Stallone-like perpetual grimace just add to the fun.
This film makes bloodshed look oh so sexy, with its slow motion 3D sequences. Travis and his writer Alex Garland use a hilarious winking excuse for this severe time dilation: crooks in the story are addicted to a drug called SLO-MO which makes seconds seem like minutes. While the trick is enjoyable most of the time, it comes up just a bit more often than necessary.
Probably the most unexpected part of “Dredd 3D” is its badass female villain. In a movie world with very few strong female characters, it’s exciting to see the filmmakers go with the bold choice of a female baddie. I love that she’s just as ruthless if not more so than many bad guys I’ve seen recently. Having the dastardly Ma-Ma as a foil for Dredd makes you root even harder for him.
Although it certainly helps to be a fanboy, you don’t need to be a one to appreciate “Dredd 3D.” If you’re into action, sci-fi, or thrillers, you’ll also love this movie. With any luck, this could be the first in a line of good Judge Dredd flicks.
My Grade: B+