Movie Review: Dredd 3D

dredd

I gotta say, Dredd 3D has me a little concerned. I’m concerned that if I profess my love for it, it will forever cast a pall over any tiny bit of cred I might have as someone who pontificates on movies. Judging by the poor opening weekend numbers, some might even call my sanity into question (pfft! step to the back of the line, sucker.)  Who knows, maybe in a week or two, I’ll see it again and come to my senses in a “dude, what were you thinking?!” kind of way. But right now, this very moment, I strongly like Dredd 3D.

It’s not like this film is some kind of cinematic masterpiece, I admit. It falls squarely in the realm of B-movie craptacular – but I do like me some crappy B-movies.  What spawned my like-affair with Dredd is that unlike other recent films where my low expectations we’re fulfilled but in no way exceeded, this one actually did surprise me. (I should probably qualify all this by pointing out that I also really enjoy the cheesy 1995 Judge Dredd. Yes, I am a sick, twisted individual…)

Unlike its predecessor, this new Dredd movie is much less schtick and way more grit. There’s no Rob Schneider one-liners or Stallone sneer.  There’s also no giant robots or radiation ravaged mutants. Instead what we see is an average looking city with average looking people. In fact, in the first five minutes you’d swear you were looking at plain old contemporary New York. And instead of a big cast of stars, there’s Karl Urban (Star Trek) as Dredd, Olivia Thirlby (Juno) as Anderson, and Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) as bad girl ‘MaMa.’

So what, you might ask, did the studio spend their money on?  Well, the “blood and guts” budget must have been spectacular, because this movie has more gore than the last five horror movies I’ve seen, combined!

The backdrop is a not-so-distant post-apocalyptic future, where much of the remaining population is crammed into a few mega-cities. Those less well off live in 200-story utilitarian skyscrapers. Because of the extreme overpopulation, law enforcement is only able to respond to about 6 percent of all 911 calls. In order to avoid a completely overwhelmed court system, police called “Judges” provide both enforcement of laws, and application and punishment.

Despite the challenging conditions, the crimes these Judges deal with seem pretty run-of-the-mill: murder, prostitution, and drugs. And the new drug-of-the-week is a concoction called Slo-Mo, which slows down your perception of time to one-tenth of normal.

Of course Slo-Mo is really for us, the audience, because it allows us to marinate in every blood-soaked moment.  When a guy’s face gets blown off, we see the bullet mosey it’s way into his cheek. We see the flesh compress and distort. We see the head turn, and then the expansion of a gaping meat-hole as the bullet passes through the other side.  If you’ve ever wondered what happens when a body hits concrete after a 20-story drop – with instant replay-like precision – then this is the movie for you.

The action in Dredd is pretty solid, even if the story is underwhelming, and unlike Sylvester Stallone who sucks all the oxygen out of Judge Dredd with his over-over-the-top performance, Urban does an excellent job of sharing the screen with his co-stars. Olivia Thirlby holds her own as the psychic rookie Judge Anderson, and (unsurprisingly) Lena Headey really delivers the goods as the scarred-and-greasy drug king-pin, ‘MaMa’.

The 3D in Dredd is also better than most, particularly when coupled with the gory “Slo-Mo” scenes, although it does draw attention to some of the CGI ( including CGI blood spatter, which I really despise.)  “Slo-Mo” also has a psychedelic effect on the user, which we get to experience through their eyes in glorious 3D. This entails a lot of sparkly little starbursts and rainbow colored lens flare which looks like a unicorn might have simultaneously puked and farted.

Overall, if you’re looking for some relief from the mostly dull movie offerings so far this fall, you could do a lot worse than Dredd.

Rating: 3.5/5 ★★★½☆ 

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About Dave_P

Dave_P studied fine arts and film history and is a graphic and web designer, and a diehard movie fan. David has been involved with a variety film festivals including the Cinephile Film Festival, the PRIDE Film festival, and the Manhattan Short Film festival, and is currently the director of the Dark Carnival Film Fest in Bloomington, Indiana. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)

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