Film Review: Dredd

Dredd 3D is a reboot of the long time comic book character and the results are magnificent as Judge Dredd proves he deserves to become a comic book film main stay.

The story starts over from square one and introduces us to Judge Dredd and The Law with a fun chase scene and all of the basics of the series.  Voice command gun, on the spot judgement and brutal violence are staples for our hero Dredd who is already firmly one of the best Judges on the streets of Mega-City One.  Dredd is soon tasked with the job of evaluating a rookie, Judge Anderson, who just barely missed the cut in the academy but is being given a second chance thanks to her psychic abilities.  The two take a call to one of the city’s mega blocks, 200 story communities, but the block’s gang leader, Ma-Ma, has her own plans for them when they try to take one of her top dealers.  The block is put on lock down and Dredd and Anderson are left to fight their way out of the situation.

Judge Dredd hasn’t seen the big screen in some time and director Pete Travis brings back the hero in style.  The film is fairly straight forward story wise, as the above synopsis clearly shows, but that simplicity allows the film to create some characters we care about while getting right to the action.  The film is also gorgeous to look at as Travis has a firm grasp on action, CGI and 3D.  The film has some excellent visual storytelling and the filmmakers do a great job of cuing both Anderson’s psychic abilities and the effects of the film’s drug of choice, Slo-Mo.  The Slo-Mo scenes in particular are executed perfectly as you get to watch the destruction in perfect slow motion clarity.  Though be warned, that clarity makes the film not for the squeamish as the violence certainly earns its R rating.  The film doesn’t pull its punches and the body count is both large and indiscriminate.  Travis and his scripter, Alex Garland, also do a great job of mixing up the action and making sure none of the action beats feel recycled or overdone. The film’s utilization of 3D also can’t be overstated either as it is the most impressive use of the format since Hugo.  In fact, it comes close to surpassing Scorsese’s effort as Travis understands the need for particle effects and the need for them to create an affective 3D image. Enough compliments can’t go around.

The actors also deserve a lot of credit with Karl Urban and Olivia Thirlby as our lead players.  Urban’s Dredd is a commanding presence and he inhabits the character perfectly; striking that balance of bad ass and dry humor with ease.  Physically (I am assuming it was Urban as he never takes the helmet off) he is more than capable of what the film demands and Urban makes Dredd a very charismatic and likable hero.  Stealing Urban’s thunder is the always excellent Thirlby who is great as the rookie, Anderson.  Thirlby is able to sell the potentially corny psychic gimmick and really shows a lot of growth over the picture.  Dredd is Dredd, a badass through and through, but Thirlby starts off hesitant and squeamish before molding into a fairly dominant force herself.  Urban does deserve a bit more credit though, as he does subtly give Dredd an arc and he is able to convey a lot through his mask.  Lena Headey is also devilishly good as the ruthless Ma-Ma who runs the delicately named Peach Trees mega block.  Wood Harris makes the most of his moments he actually gets to talk, with he and Thirlby having some particularly good scenes against one another.  Domhnall Gleeson is also quite affective as Ma-Ma’s computer hacker, but I can’t help but feel he has a bit more to his character left on the cutting room floor.

Dredd 3D is one of the biggest surprises of the year and one I plan on revisiting plenty in the future.  I really hope the film does well so we can get a sequel or two out of the picture and we can see the Judges back in action again.  The 3D is absolutely worth the ticket and Travis has firmly announced himself as a director to watch.  He brings Alex Garland’s great script to life and does so with a visual eye that can’t be ignored.  One of more visually arresting films of the year, Dredd is also one of the most entertaining. It’s one of the year’s best and one of my personal favorites; don’t miss it.

Dredd 3D is an A-

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