Judge Dredd has passed his judgement upon myself. He has judged that I am a colossal hypocrite. I complain and whinge constantly about the watering down of cinema to appeal to a wider audience, I bemoan the safe and sanitised studio system yet when Dredd 3D had its theatrical run, I was nowhere to be found. It appears others had a similar idea. The 18 or R rated Dredd 3D didn’t set the box office alight despite numerous favourable reviews. Here is my apology for not laying my £9 down in the form of these few hundred words.
Dredd 3D is great fucking entertainment. There, now that’s out of the way I can get along and tell you all why you should give Dredd a chance in your own homes in an attempt to give this pure piece of violent action cinema the attention it deserves.
Based on the infamous comic book character from Britain’s own 2000AD the movie introduces us to Mega City One, a sprawling amalgamation of filth and criminal activity where hundreds of millions of residents live in constant fear for their lives much like anyone who’s stepped foot in Dudley Bus Station on a Saturday night. The only thing stopping society’s total downfall is The Judges.
The Judges have the power to arrest, sentence and exact punishment on the spot. The punishment extends much further than an £80 spot fine for dropping your chewing gum however and it’s standard procedure to execute criminals on the spot for more heinous crimes. This is violent utilitarianism restoring balance in the only way that Mega City One will listen.
We meet the titular Judge Dredd in a high octane pursuit, upon conclusion of the pursuit he is tasked with assessing a rookie Judge by the name of Anderson who has quite spectacular psychic abilities. A seemingly innocuous and routine gangland murder investigation leads to the discovery of a drug supply chain epicentre at a high rise housing development known as Peach Trees which has been territorially dominated by a female crimelord by the name of Mama.
Of course, Mama does not take kindly to the judges’ presence fearing they could disrupt the supply chain of her lucrative ‘Slo-Mo’ hallucinogen resulting in the building being locked down with Dredd and the rookie Anderson being thrown into a frenetic highrise fight for survival.
Dredd as a movie feels like a throwback to the 80′s/early 90′s where you could get away with that little bit more brutality and humour was often served black. This is the highest compliment I can pay to a modern action production as for me most of them, even beloved franchises like Die Hard have been neutered and spayed to cater for a more sensitive and highly lucrative majority audience. Dredd is a grimy and violent movie and for that we can be eternally grateful.
Action kicks along at a break neck pace, characterisation is exactly what it needs to be for the genre. The tone has a sprinkle of satrical tongue and cheek and the humour is refreshingly dark reminding me of 1987′s Robocop which of course can only be a good thing.
Performance wise, Urban channels the force of Clint Eastwood at his most malevolent and pissed off from under Dredd’s iconic mask, no mean feat considering that he stays masked for the entire movie (which will please the purists). The ultra violent tone creates a real sense of jeopardy especially with Olivia Thirlby’s vulnerability shining through her performance as Anderson, the dymnamic of two making the film infinitely watchable.
While Dredd is the focal point and the ultimate anti-hero it is Anderson who we are really rooting for to succeed in the most life threating job interview you will ever see. That’s not to assume she is just a damsel in distress however, the character is treated with respect and her chances to shine both intellectually and via brute force come frequently and often. Along with the character of Mama it’s nice to see women in an action movie being treated as more than a plot device.
Without going into technical details that you can get at a dozen or more home media review sites, visually the film looks spectacular (I’m referring directly to the 3D Blu-ray version of the movie). Shot composition was obviously prepared with 3D in mind and the experience is immersive without ever feeling gimmicky. The drug induced sequences through the perspective of ‘Slo-Mo’ users are a peculiar and original experience and I’m glad I got to see Dredd as it was intended. The audio mix is bombastic and could knock the nuts off a bull at 100 yards. At numerous points throughout the movie I found myself grinning ear to ear as bass filled the room and bullets pierced with amazing clarity and directionality.
As you can see, I enjoyed Dredd’s big screen outing greatly. It’s a big dumb action movie that’s self aware enough to actually show intelligence under its crowd pleasing exterior packed with gargantuan servings of ultra violence and a black sense of humour, much like me after 9 pints of Leffe. I hope I’ve convinced you to give Dredd a chance in your own homes. A sequel is warranted and deserved and I can only apologise again for not putting my money in the local Odeon’s tills. Dredd comes highly recommended, doubly so if you can quote at least 2 Arnold Schwarzenegger movies from front to back or you laughed when ED-209 shot the living shit out of the smarmy businessman back in 1987.