Dredd 3D: Movie Review
Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey
Director: Pete Travis
In this radically gritty reboot of the iconic and long running Brit sci-fi comic book 2000AD series, our very own Karl Urban (a lifelong fan of Dredd himself) dons the helmet of Judge Dredd and heads out into Mega City One to dispense justice for Dredd 2012.
On a routine day out bringing law to the lawless, Dredd is called on to evaluate rookie judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) to see if she's good enough to make the grade. Anderson's failed the aptitude tests but is one of the strongest psychics ever seen.
So, the duo is paired up and by Anderson's choice, take on a triple homicide inside the Peach Trees mega complex.
But when they get there, they find the 200 level block is under the control of cold hearted bitch Ma-Ma (Game of Thrones' Lena Headey) who immediately locks everything down and orders the judges executed.
Firstly, a confession - I've been a life long fan of the Dredd comics and 2000AD as a whole. So it's probably fair to say that I had high hopes for this (given the debacle that was the Stallone version years ago) - and I can safely say, they've been met - and exceeded.
The main reason is Karl Urban. His screen Dredd is everything and more I'd have wanted for the gritty, urban and violent reboot. Urban's got Dredd down to a tee - from the stony faced chin and sneer to the gravelly, enforcer (almost Robocop-like) voice of Dredd. It's a perfect version of the law dispensing judge -and more than fans could have ever hoped for. Credit has to go to Urban, who owns the role from the get go and who knows the source material as well as having been there from the start - having seen this reboot, it's hard to now imagine anyone else as Dredd (and yes, I am talking about that version that should be erased). But Urban's also to be praised for bringing a bit of humanity to Dredd with humour; he clearly shows this is a Judge not to be messed with, but a bad ass with a way with an occasional quip.
Meanwhile, Olivia Thirlby is the perfect foil to Dredd - her Anderson is vulnerable, human and gives us the ideal way into Mega City One and the way of the Judges. Her character has hints of an arc (as much as you can in a film where two people shoot their way out of a building) and a backstory which would give some exploration in any future films. Lena Headey has little to do as MaMa except be a cold, evil sneering presence but she makes the most of her onscreen time and has the cruel veneer down to a tee.
Likewise director Travis and writer Alex Garland have done a great job of bringing a high octane, gritty feel to the film; with measured bursts of violence, and an opening sequence which establishes Dredd more than any pointless exposition ever could, it's certainly stylish despite the occasionally sparse level of the script.
Equally, the scenes where the 3D brings the film to life are the Slo-Mo drug taking sequences; thrilling, hypnotic, visceral and with heightened colours, they're definitely eye catching and probably one of the most original things you'll see on screen this year.
While Dredd certainly hits the right notes for the comic book fans (certainly, the fan pleasing nods within structures will give 2000AD fans a tingle of nerdy excitement), there are moments when some parts of the audience may feel a little left out or if they've seen The Raid or Die Hard, a sense of deja vu.
A lack of real strong plot is not a major distraction but becomes evident occasionally (and the rookie out with Dredd story is a familiar one from the comics), as does the over-use of zoom ins on Anderson's spider-sense like psychic abilities, which due to over-reliance loses its novelty.
At the end of the day though, this reboot deserves to be seen by many; sure, it's violent but it's slick, original and probably the closest thing to a live action comic book of Dredd you'll ever see. I hope it gets the mass market appeal it needs to ensure a sequel, because there's plenty of exciting potential here.
Thrilling, high octane, and visceral, Dredd 3D is anything but Dredd-ful. In fact, it's actually completely awesome.