Dredd 3D movie review
In an age where police brutality has become an internet meme, Dredd seems like an anachronism. This sci-fi film has little to say about the current state of our justice system, instead providing 95 minutes of cold, hard escapism. The law is absolute, and the corrupting forces barely stand a chance.
Dredd 3D is set in a dystopian future where the population of America is packed into a walled-off cityscape. Called Mega-City One, like something out of a Capcom game (or the actual decades-old comic book character Dredd is based off of), it houses over 800 million citizens in giant, 200-story buildings that tower over the old cities they're built upon. When three men are skinned alive and dropped from the top of one of these buildings, two Judges are called upon to clean up the mess. The Judges are the law enforcement of the city, executing on the spot or sending criminals away to the Iso-Cubes.
Dredd (Karl Urban) is the grimacing face of the law, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), his new rookie partner. She's a psychic mutant, though the pretty face could fool you. I was initially skeptical of her role in the film, expecting her to be the typical eye candy to make up for Dredd, who literally has half his face covered with a helmet for the entire movie. That couldn't be further from the truth, though, as she earns her place, smashes most of the cliches for heroines in these kinds of movies, and sits comfortably next to names like Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor.
Karl Urban by comparison, has little to work with and manages to squeeze out a hell of a performance anyway. With nothing more than a jawline and a perma-frown to emote from, he manages to make Dredd intimidating, cold, and yet, still human. A bit of snark and sarcasm can go a long way, and Dredd has some one-liners that would make the cast of The Expendables jealous. You can tell he gets some satisfaction from what he does.
Once within the walls of Peach Trees, a giant tower controlled by the druglord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), the two Judges are locked in and forced to fight their way to the top. An army of gun-toting goons stand between them and Ma-Ma, whose new drug, Slo-Mo, is quickly taking over the city.
The drug, which makes the user perceive time at 1% its normal speed, lends itself to some pretty stunning visuals. Rippling skin, splashing water, and nasty bullet entry are all shown in super slow, extremely detailed moments. Seeing the film in 3D will only add to the effect.
It's worth mentioning that this is one of the most three-dimensional 3D films I've seen since Avatar. Scenes are rich with depth, and the film isn't afraid to put things in both the extreme foreground and background. That's both a blessing and a curse, though, as the camera bounces between focusing on different objects and the out-of-focus 3D effects can be very disorienting. If you've never been wowed by 3D, it's probably fine to stick to 2D, but fans of the format, when done right, will want to drop the extra cash.
Dredd is a surprisingly solid film that rarely drifts into the senselessness of so many other action films. Each moment is earned, and the gun battles are often more about the build-up than the actual bullets flying. We're shown so little of Mega-City One, yet it manages to seem like a real place with its own set of rules.
That consistency, combined with a hyper-violent tone and the decision to put the hero in a helmet for the entire 95 minutes makes Dredd one of the most sure-footed sci-fi action films I've seen in some time. It may not have anything relevant to say about the state of the world, but when something like Prometheus trips all over itself trying to be intelligent, Dredd seems refreshingly unsophisticated.