Dredd 3D Directed by Pete Travis Written by Alex Garland Starring Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Wood Harris, Lena Headey, Domhnall Gleeson Lionsgate | DNA Films Rated R | 95 Minutes Release Date: September 21, 2012
Created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, Judge Dredd first appeared in 1977 in the science-fiction anthology 2000 AD. A law enforcer given the power of judge, jury, and executioner, Dredd patrols the dystopian metropolis of Mega-City One, a vast city-state within a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
In 1995, director Danny Cannon (I Still Know What You Did Last Summer) brought Judge Dredd to the big screen starring Sylvester Stallone, Diane Lane, Max von Sydow, and Rob Schneider – and yes, you read that correctly – that’s Deuce Bigalow Male Gigalo, not Roy Scheider of Jaws.
Judge Dredd is pure ’90s cheese: a violent, effects-heavy movie that feels like the best parts of RoboCop and the worst parts of Demolition Man – the comic book equivalent to 1993′s Super Mario Bros. Looking back on it, if Stallone would have kept his helmet on – and if Rob Schneider wasn’t involved – it might have been a passable action movie.
Luckily, Hollywood believes in second chances – especially if there’s money to be made. In a cinematic landscape post-Batman Begins, it seems everything is being rebooted or re-imagined with a dark, gritty, brooding twist.
The light gets dark, the dark gets darker. With a remake of RoboCop right around the corner, and the recent box office success of superhero and comic book adaptations, it was only a matter of time until Judge Dredd was put back on duty.
This time around, Pete Travis (Vantage Point) directs Dredd 3D, based on a screenplay by Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go). The film stars Karl Urban (Star Trek) as Dredd and Olivia Thirlby (The Wackness) as Anderson, Dredd’s rookie partner with a psychic mutation.
Dredd and Anderson go to the Peach Trees, a high-rise in Mega-City One, to investigate a routine triple homicide when they are trapped inside the 200-story by Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), the tower’s resident drug lord and all-around bad bitch. Together they must fight their way out of the blast shield-protected mega-structure floor by floor and deliver judgment to Ma-Ma and her gang.
Ma-Ma is the brains behind a new synthetic drug called Slo-Mo, an addictive inhalant that slows the user’s perception of time to 1% of normal speed, which makes for some pretty beautiful, disorienting scenes (enhanced by 3D) where bullets whiz by Matrix-style and pierce flesh and bone with elegant precision. Ma-Ma is so unrelenting in her brutality that she forces enemies to inhale Slo-Mo before skinning them alive and throwing them off a 200-story tower block, allowing them to slowly plummet to their concrete-cracking demise.
For fans of The Raid: Redemption, the plot may sound somewhat familiar, even though Garland began writing Dredd in 2006 during post-production on Sunshine. Garland would go on to complete his first draft during filming of 28 Weeks Later, with Judge Dredd creator John Wagner revising the script and tweaking dialogue. The ‘fight our way out’ plot isn’t an entirely new idea anyway, being as both films seem semi-inspired by John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 – but it is one of those Armageddon / Deep Impact situations where two films with similar ideas are released back-to-back.
Travis’ Dredd 3D is a violent, no-holds-barred, post-apocalyptic masterpiece. It amazes me that, in an age of PG-13 horror movies and watered-down, derivative crap, a hard-R sci-fi action movie can be released in theaters with tons of blood and head-exploding awesomeness. Dredd 3D is everything the RoboCop remake should be, but won’t be – a brutal, pulpy tech-noir dressed in the trappings of a bleak, dystopian future.
As I write this review, Dredd 3D will have only made $6,300,000 this weekend – and that’s fucking sad. It’s sad that people are more willing to watch the absolutely abysmal House at the end of the Street ($13 Million opening weekend gross) or the SIXTHResident Evil movie, Resident Evil: Retribution ($6,700,000 this weekend) than an inspired, faithful comic book adaptation with balls – a grindhouse satire that isn’t afraid to skin a few thugs alive.
If you long for the days when science-fiction action flicks were rated R and sold to actual adults instead of PG-13, bloodless, generic novelties for kids with learner’s permits, then Dredd 3D is a fantastically fun shoot ‘em up with great performances by Urban, Thirlby, Headey, and Avon Barksdale himself, Wood Harris.
Look, if you’re a geek (and I assume you are), you need to saddle up and go to the theater and see Dredd 3D. It’s Blade Runner meets Die Hard, and I desperately want a sequel with robots, aliens, mutants and bad-ass Karl Urban growling and field-dressing himself with a Predator-esque first aid kit. I AM THE LAW!