When I was first made aware of Dredd being made it was during a drunken conversation about the Robocop remake, at a bar after seeing Cabin In The Woods. I was quick to dismiss the possibility of a new film doing justice to the character. Not long after I caught the trailer and upon discovering it was to be in 3D (surprise, surprise) I was even more put off. Honestly the trailer didn’t do much for me and I have issues with 3D and the studio system’s recent abuse of the format. Later still, when I read the plot synopsis and its extraordinary resemblance to The Raid (one of my absolute favorite films of the year) I was convinced I did not need to see this film… probably ever.
So when a friend called last week to see Dredd 3D on opening night I had serious reservations… at first. I try not to be critical of films before seeing them, as hard as that is sometimes, and it was with this mindset I decided to give the trailer another look. It definitely got me thinking about how much I dig Judge Dredd and how exciting the possibility of a good interpretation of the character on film could be. So with a new-found excitement I headed to the theatre on Friday and I have to say, I was not disappointed.
In Dredd 3D we spend the day in Mega City One, an enclosed city that stretches from what used to be Boston to Washington D.C., blocked off from the irradiated remains of its surroundings. Here in Mega City One, crime is rampant and the streets are policed by the Judges, who have the authority to arrest, sentence and, if deemed necessary, execute criminals at their discretion. This particular day we follow the ultimate bad ass Judge, Dredd, and his partner for the day, Anderson, who Dredd is assigned to train and assess her abilities to become a full Judge. Dredd is clearly not thrilled with this assignment, but Anderson turns out to have skills that will benefit them both throughout the film.
The two end up on a homicide call that leads them to the 200 story hideout and center of operations for local hooker turned drug lord Ma-Ma. Ma-Ma has been keeping the city high as a kite with a new drug called slo-mo that makes the user feel time at a fraction of its actual speed. It’s up to the Judges to work their way through Ma-Ma’s crew and bring her down.
The scar-faced Ma-Ma is a ruthless bitch who has no problem getting half the city hooked on slo-mo and disposing of anybody else who gets in the way. She also possesses an almost Asia Argento quality, in the way that even though she’s all beaten up and scarred ugly she’s still kind of hot… maybe that’s just me… She is definitely the strongest character in the film and is a worthy opponent to Dredd. Her gang on the other hand is another story. I didn’t feel like she had any real back up at all. Okay, I didn’t want to do this, but I have to make the comparison. In The Raid, Tama was a bad motherfucker, but not half as bad as his crew, especially his right-hand man Mad Dog. Ma-Ma, although a much better character than Tama, has no stand-out members of her gang. They all just seem very disposable.
Weak evil henchmen aside, Dredd 3D does offer a lot to enjoy. The 3D, surprisingly, being one. I normally don’t go for 3D, but the use of it in this to show the effects of the slo-mo was really well done, and it doesn’t over-stay its welcome like in so many other films. These scenes include one of Ma-Ma, high on slo-mo in the bathtub, clearly not heading N.W.A.’s advice of “don’t get high on your own supply”. As she splashes the water with her hand we’re treated to a slow motion effect that brings to mind seeing trails when on LSD. All around the visual effects were well done and coupled with the amped up violence, kept the less-than-original story moving along quite nicely. Karl Urban’s portrayal of Judge Dredd, all scowl and helmet, was a welcome return to the comic book roots of the character, which was my main concern going in. Olivia Thirlby as Anderson does a fine job standing side by side with Dredd and laying waste to Ma-Ma’s crew. I found that even though the story is nothing we haven’t seen before, the performances of the leads and the outstanding visuals make Dredd 3D a more than worthy trip to the theatre.
I give Dredd 3D 3.5 out of 5 Screaming Jamies