Dredd 3D (2012)
(18) Running time: 95 minutes
Director: Pete Travis
Writers: Carlos Ezquerra, Alex Garland
Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
Dredd 3D arrives after a mountain of hype and promises that not only will it be violent as Hell, but it will finally do the 200AD comic book character justice. Director Pete Travis (Vantage Point, Endgame) finally gives fans the Dredd they have been so desperately deserving of after that complete travesty of a failure, the Stallone starring Judge Dredd from 1995. Here we actually see Dredd keep his helmet on, kill with ease, deliver one liners and show absolutely no remorse for his actions. If ever Dredd was to be confused with a machine, Dredd 3D will have you thinking he actually is a one. Karl Urban expertly portrays a man who believes deep down that “he is the law” and no matter what anyone says, he is right, and this dedication and belief in himself as pretty much invincible is delivered on screen thanks to a whopping performance by Urban. Karl Urban IS Dredd, no question, and here is a film that is so much fun it had me grinning from cheek to cheek many times!
Travis catapults the viewer back to that wonderful world of movies not afraid to take things, shall we say, that one step further. Dredd drips with the playful anarchy of Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop, it has the brutal menace of James Cameron’s The Terminator, the violence of chaos of this year’s stand out action flick The Raid, and even manages to pull off a kind of Blade Runner-ish futuristic feel in both its design and its soundtrack. Dredd has it all, and it is elevated to wonderful levels of brilliance thanks to a film which finally embraces 3D as it should be: fun and used to emphasis the film. You don’t want to see someone’s cheek get blown up in boring 2D fashion, you want to see it in super slo-mo as the blood pretty much lands on your 3D glasses! This film is fun, over the top and slick as Hell, and it is clear that Travis wanted to give something back to the fans. He is not concerned about appealing to the masses, for this film is a full on 18 certificate, and proud of it. Travis never holds back on the violence here, and those wandering just how violent Dredd can be I shall say this: in the opening five minutes a man is run over (blood spilled all over the van’s window), three criminals violently killed by Dredd and three other criminals are thrown some 200 stories to their deaths after being skinned alive by the main villain.
The film see’s Dredd taking out rookie Judge Anderson (Thirlby) in a test which will see her either pass to become a Judge, fail or, more than likely, get killed. Anderson has something the Judge’s need though: she is a mutant with psychic powers, and these powers come in very handy as Anderson and Dredd find themselves in a whole heap of trouble. They answer a response call and head to Peach Trees, a 200 storey block which houses the city’s worst criminals, and right at the top in control of everything resides Ma-Ma (a gloriously sadistic Lena Headey). Turns out Ma-Ma and her loyal gang are making a drug called Slo-Mo, and when they’re not brutally killing the competition, they are getting people hooked on their new drug. Named Slo-Mo because it make the user feel like time has slowed right down, the scenes showing users on the drug are terrific. Making full use of the 3D, every moment is captured in ultra slow motion. Be it Ma-Ma in the bath, a fall from 200 stories up, or a grenade going off and sending ripples over a person’s stomach as they are blasted into the air: the design and camera use is impressive. Ma-Ma owns Peach Trees and doesn’t want two Judges interfering with her work so, like this years The Raid, orders the residents to seek out the Judges and kill them while closing the building off to the outside world.
What we end up with is pretty much an entire film shot in the one building, with one big action sequence after another. Dredd delivers one liner after one liner, while Anderson’s psychic abilities offer up tons of cool ideas (playing with one criminals head is both hilarious and unsettling), and Ma-Ma will disgust and amaze in her sheer contempt for human life. The wonderful soundtrack pumps at a fast pace and delivers pounding drums to really give the film impact, and in the slo-mo scenes or more reflective type moments, the soundtrack goes all chill out otherworldly and provides some much needed stress relief and relaxation. However, the constant barrage of gun fights is sadly where the film loses its way somewhat. Yes the film is thrilling, exciting and tons of fun, but there are limitations as to where the film could lead and sadly those limitations were met at around the hour mark. The film just needed one final, big moment to finish on, but sadly things begin to fall into place a little too easy, and while the gun fights are cool, they become a bit samey. A good old punch up would have done the trick. And while the film really delivers on the violence and mayhem, I actually found the opening scenes in the streets, showing off Dredd’s bike in a thrilling chase scene, to be one of the highlights.
However, I do not want to be too negative because Dredd is the biggest, best and most violent action flick this side of The Raid, and while it doesn’t deliver as many “ooh’s, ahh’s and ouches” as The Raid required, it will have you either punching the air, laughing at just how bonkers it can be, or sitting in absolute awe of a director not afraid to push his films to its absolute limits. Rejoice in a film that basically says bollocks to playing by the rules, and sod off you and your tame 15 and 12A certificate nonsense. Dredd 3D is about using those simple values in proper adult cinema: violence, mayhem, one liners, a cool setting, the odd bit of sexual intentions, guns, blood and a pumping soundtrack to get you cheering along with it. Take some time out of your need to conform to what people expect, and go and have some fucking fun with Dredd 3D, you know you want to!