Dredd 3D arrives with a director and a star in Karl Urban who have both adored the comics that the film is based on since they were children. Our Dredd 3D review has to begin and end with a tribute to Urban's commitment to bringing the film to a whole nother level than could ever have been expected.
Judge Dredd was first seen in the British science fiction anthology 2000 AD. He lives in a world where wars have wiped out what we know of the modern United States. All that is left is one big concrete jungle that begins in Manhattan and ends in Washington, D.C. Crime is at a mind-blowing high where, according to Dredd in the new film, the authorities can only respond to six percent of the police calls.
Therefore, as seen in the Dredd red band trailer, Dredd is part of a legion of justice officers called Judges. They literally are judge, jury and executioner.
In director Pete Travis and screenwriter Alex Garland’s beautifully shot 3D film, we meet Dredd as he is pursuing a trio of suspects racing to escape him. They are high on a new drug called Slow-Mo that is much like LSD. Travis gives the audience a first-hand feel of what it is like to be on the drug, as 3D has never been used as effectively to put an audience in the head of a character.
The power of the Judges is shown as Urban determines that these three are harming “innocents” and must be put down. With one shot of his cannon of a gun, their car flips over and justice is served.
The Dredd 3D story works exceptionally well as it is set up by Garland. Dredd is assigned a rookie for evaluation, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby). Anderson is no ordinary recruit. She has psychic powers and although hesitant to work with someone so inexperienced, Dredd soon learns that her supernatural gift gives them a leg up on the evildoers out there.
The film hits the crux of its plot when the duo is called to an apartment building that houses 75,000 of the poorest of the poor. Inside, ruling with an iron fist, is the Slow-Mo dealing madam named MaMa who is as brutal as they come. Lena Headey is as menacing as any villain seen this year. Our hero and his sidekick are responding to a triple homicide in the building, completely unaware that the two will remain trapped in the building fighting for their lives while simultaneously trying to exact justice and protect innocent lives.
Judging by the scope established in the film’s opening moments, one would expect a film of great vastness. Instead, it reminds us of Assault on Precinct 13 and its story of trapped law officers withstanding an onslaught of bullets and weaponry. This is exactly why Dredd 3D works so brilliantly. Its action is contained within a massive structure, but still very much within four walls that give the viewer a sense of panic that our hero and his sidekick don’t stand a chance.
Urban is stellar and a vision of excellence. He could have delivered a one-note performance that would have fit his character. But instead, he utilizes every ounce of his acting talent to present a nuanced series of emotions… all through his body language. You see, unlike the Sylvester Stallone version, he never removes his helmet. This is an homage to the source material. Fans were up in arms when Sly was frequently seen without his head gear, and Urban and the filmmakers sought to keep their film firmly grounded in the original series.
Thus, Urban must act without the most powerful of a thespian’s tools: His eyes. The man, soon to be seen in Star Trek 2, shows what a talented performer he is and Movie Fanatic cannot wait to see where the Dredd franchise goes if it should be so lucky as to find an audience.