Coming out following what has to be one of the worst marketing campaigns ever designed, Dredd 3D struggled to light even the smallest spark of anticipation from me until the praising reviews started crashing in waves all over the internet. That was quite a shocker. What looked like something destined to be considered worst of the year, maybe even a sweeper at the Razzies, was supposed to be not just not awful, but actually good? At this point, I hadn’t even decided if I would even make myself sit through Dredd yet, but I figured if that many people have liked it, it’s worth a shot. And while Dredd certainly isn’t for everybody, I had some fun with it. Dredd takes place in an apocolyptic future where 800 million people live in a giant city called Mega City One. In Mega City One, drug crime rules, and the only form of justice is in the judges, who hold the power of judge, jury, and executioner on the spot of the crime. When one judge, Judge Dredd, brings a rookie along to a drug bust, things get out of hand, and these two judges are left to fight against an entire building full of enemies.
There’s very little to the characters in Dredd, as the character development doesn’t seem to be a
prime focus at all. That said, the performances are fine. Karl Urban, for having his face covered almost the entire time, makes a fine protagonist, but that’s only because the bad guys seem so bad that you really root for anyone who goes against them. You wish the movie would hint a little more that there is more to Dredd behind the helmet, but they really shy away from that, even though it comes up in an earlier scene. If they had done that, maybe given a little backstory, I would’ve cared for him a little more. The most emotionally resonant character in this film is that of Anderson, the female protagonist played by Olivia Thirlby. She’s the only other prominent hero in this film, and perhaps it’s because she doesn’t wear a helmet and has a little more backstory and development that we actually come to care for her and her journey seems a little more interesting. Besides that, there’s absolutely nothing to these characters. The bad guys are bad, and scars and tatoos = bad guy. Dredd and blonde girl = good guys. That’s all you really need to know, and that’s pretty much all screenwriter Alex Garland, writer of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later,put in there for you to know.
The story to Dredd is equally simple to its characters. There’s obviously an interesting mythology and a bunch of cool, futuristic nuances to Mega City One and the Judges system (whose problems and conflicts inside the system and fighting crime could write a whole other sequel in itself), but Pete Travis, who directed the thriller Vantage Point, wastes no time not exploring any of it to craft a futuristic take on Die Hard, replacing Hans Gruber with a rough-and-tough drug lord ex-prostitute and John McClane with a future cop with the right to execute a criminal on the spot. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds, and it’s not about to claim itslef to be a dramatically profound movie, so it serves you what you come for: awesome, relentless violence and action. The storytelling and character flaws would normally be unforgivable, but the stylish direction, fun action, rapid pace, and deadpan dark humor make this escapism entertainment at its post-Summer finest.
The action in this film is great, providing a variety of interesting action sequences in a small, similar space. One of the great additions to the action is the plot device of SLO-MO, a mind altering drug that makes the mind move at 1% it’s normal speed. The action sequences taking place under the effects of SLO-MO are visually creative, and hauntingly awesome. The film is unapologetic in its violence, which is relentless and bloody, and more than enough to quench the thirsts of action-junkies everywhere. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, or people who perfer substance to style, and character development instead of slow motion bullets blasting through the cheeks of a drugged-up criminal, but for anyone looking for an action-packed, loud, and ridiculous but fun time is in for a September treat with Dredd.
The 3D is better than usual, but once again, as always, you could live without it. It’s only heightened by the bombastic and wonderful special effects that fuel the style of this film. The landscapes and exterior shots of Mega City One are pretty cool, as are all the effects in the unbelievably cool SLO-MO sequences. In the end, Dredd isn’t much of a cinematic feat, but the fact that it’s not dreadful is a feat in its own.
FINAL GRADE: ★★★★★★★ (7/10 stars)
FINAL SAY: Relentless and bloody in its stylistic violence, Dreed 3D isn’t a study in character development or storytelling, but rather a non-stop joyride of bombastic violence, action, and dark humor.