Dredd 3D

Review: Dredd 3D

12 Oct 12

Not Dreadful, but lacking true Dredd

Ok - so this is nowhere near as bad, icky and kid-friendly as Sly Stallone's 1995 abomination, 'Judge Dredd' - but it's also nowhere near the Dredd I know. This (like all reviews) is a personal thing for me. See, I was raised by Dredd. Not that my dad was a Mega-City Judge - but because, long ago in a far-away land called the UK, there were no cool comic books. Kids could only marvel (pun intended) in envious awe at what they were being served over the Atlantic. Not only did those lucky enough to be born in the US have Disneyland - they had Marvel and DC too! And then an earth-shattering event - '2000AD' hit the newsstands. Bold, brutal and brilliant - this was finally a comic to call our own. And foremost amongst its treasures was the neo-fascist satire, 'Judge Dredd.' With Clint Eastwood's chin clearly visible beneath his helmet, this was 'Dirty Harry' to the power of a thousand. Pick-pocket thief? Set Lawgiver to kill. Boom! Justice served. Dredd was judge, jury and executioner rolled into one over-the-top, bad-ass satirical package. He made Robocop look soft on crime. This was 'Dirty Harry' set in the future - laying down the law with scant regard for liberal human values and emotions - such as mercy, pity or even a sense of humour. Dredd was, from the eagles on his shoulders to the helmet on his head, a Nazi in all but name. And damn if in a UK dominated by Thatcherism and a US run by Reagan we didn't find it darkly hilarious, hugely exaggerated, right-wing caricatured fun.
So, what do we get here? A great action film that "borrows" rather too heavily from the excellent and hyper-violent 'The Raid' to enclose its action in the claustrophobic setting of Peach Trees, a locked-down tower block in downtown Mega-City-One. If this wasn't Dredd, but a 'Die Hard' knock-off, I'd have no complaints. The action's fast, furious and fun (although nowhere near as cool and visceral as 'The Raid') - but, (and it's a big ass "BUT"), were it not for Karl Urban sporting Dredd's helmet, he may as well be Van Damme or Statham or any other Bruce Willis knock-off playing a John McLane-style hero in a tight corner fighting off hordes of bad guys against all odds.
As a stand-alone action movie it's fine, differentiating itself from 'The Raid' in the stunningly beautiful 3D slo-mo scenes, which serve to picture the effects of the drug dealt by bad girl Madeline "Ma-ma" Madrigal's (Lena Headey) bad guys. In high-def 3D the gouts of blood and shards of exploding glass are beautiful to behold in all their slow-motion glory. But where's the complex, dense and multi-layered Mega-City of the comic strips? Where's that bustling megalopolis reminiscent of 'Blade Runner' on crack? Alex Garland's script and Pete Travis' direction both betray the lower-than-your-average-Hollywood-blockbuster indie-Brit movie budget - and what works well, in a 'Taken 2' kinda way, just doesn't end up doing its sci-fi comic book roots justice. Kudos for remaining violent and adult-orientated - but if there's a sequel it'd be great to see the Dredd I remember take centre stage. The Dredd that would find you downloading movies illegally and blow your head off - as a FIRST warning.
All in all? A fun action-fest - and whilst it's not a return to the dreadful 'Judge Dredd' of Stallone, it still ain't the Dredd I know and love to hate / hate to love. The highlights are the slow-mo scenes, but the biggest issue is that, intentionally or not, this 'Dredd' stands in the shadow of Welsh director Gareth Evans' far superior 2011 Indonesian action flick 'The Raid.'