“Dredd 3D” Movie Review

Just see this movie. Really, if you are a fan of action movies or just want to have some solid entertainment for an hour and a half, treat yourself to “Dredd 3D.” I know the 1995 Judge Dredd movie was terrible and that you probably aren’t familiar with the comic series, but trust me: this is how you do an action movie.

“Dredd 3D” takes place in a not-too-distant future where radiation has left most of the world uninhabitable, leaving the remnants of humanity to congregate in large communities called Mega Cities. Mega City 1, the setting of the film, is one giant metropolis stretching from Boston to Washington D.C. and populated by 800 million people. To combat the rampant amount of crime, the law falls in the hands of Judges, specially trained operatives who hold the legal powers of police, judge (obviously), jury and executioner.

The movie opens up with your standard car chase/police pursuit as Judge Dredd tails three criminals driving whilst under the influence of Slo-Mo, a new drug that has taken Mega City 1 by storm. But the movie breaks away from standard as the criminals run over an innocent bystander, which causes Dredd to call in his judgment as death for the penalty of murder and opens fire. The opening scenes are just fantastic at showing us how the legal system doesn’t mess around in this world.

It also establishes what kind of person Judge Dredd is: a cold, confident and unyielding dispenser of justice. There are no attempts to make him seem sweet or human or try to force some kind of love interest on him. He’s here to kick ass and take names, and that’s it. I also have to respect Karl Urban for agreeing to never take off his helmet during the entire movie. Never showing his face really helped hammer in the notion that this character is more machine than man, and it’s a really bold move for a major motion picture to have a faceless hero. Although I will say that he does that tough guy gravelly voice thing in all but three or four scenes. It doesn’t ruin the movie, but it’s a little off-putting whenever Dredd seemingly forgets to put on his Christian Bale as Batman impression.

The plot kicks off when Dredd is assigned to assess a young woman named Anderson, played by the lovely Olivia Thirlby, on her field test to become a Judge. Anderson has failed most of her exams in the academy, but has skated by because she has developed psychic powers due to exposure to radiation. Now I know that sounds really dumb on paper, but for the sake of the movie, it works rather well. She has the abilities to read other’s thoughts as well as prod into their minds, which allows her to interact with other people in different ways and thus gain a different perspective on justice than Dredd.

See, the major complaint from critics giving negative reviews to this movie is that it doesn’t have a clear moral message about the monstrosity of a police state. However, I think what the movie does is much more interesting. Rather than getting slapped with a blatant message like a “Captain Planet” episode, we are asked what we think about justice through the characters of Dredd and Anderson. On one hand, we have Dredd who admittedly gets stuff done and stops bad guys with great efficiency. But the guy sees good and bad as completely black and white and probably considers brutality and slaughter as just part of the job. And then we have Anderson, whose probing of minds leads her to think that maybe people aren’t so easy to dismiss as good and evil and that violence isn’t always the best answer. That depth isn’t usually seen in the writing of action movies.

Dredd and Anderson then go off to Peach Trees, a crime-infested, giant, 200-story apartment complex called a Mega Block, to investigate a triple homicide. They come to realize that Peach Trees is the center of operations for Ma-Ma, a sadistic former prostitute who now controls the entire production and distribution of Slo-Mo. Ma-Ma is played by Lena Headey, who is just perfect at being an evil queen as many “Game of Thrones” fans may already know. It all hits the fan when Ma-Ma locks the building down and puts a hit on the Judges, which gets the action going as Dredd and Anderson must fight to survive, stop the drug production and bring judgment upon Ma-Ma.

I almost feel that the smaller budget of this movie actually worked in its favor. Rather than Michael Bay levels of constant explosion and havoc, this movie has a wide variety of action pretty well spaced out. There is a good mix of your standard shootouts, specialty weapon kills and bare-knuckle brawling. And since it’s not all big all the time, the bigger moments actually carry some weight. The movie usually opts for grittier and more creative methods of violence as opposed to over the top and larger than life, and that’s definitely better. Less really can be more.

I should also mention that the 3D effects and soundtrack are pretty awesome. I’m almost always against 3D, but the drug-induced slow-motion scenes are some of the coolest looking stuff I’ve seen since “Avatar.” I don’t know if they are quite worth the price bump, but they are certainly nice.

They don’t make enough movies like “Dredd 3D,” and it’s a real shame. While it might not be the most complex or life-changing of movies, it’s a hell of a lot of fun and has more thought put into it than most of the blockbusters I’ve seen in awhile. End your summer with a bang and check this movie out.

Rating: 4 Stars

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