Dredd 3D is not a sequel to the first Judge Dredd movie with Sylvester Stallone in 1995. Hollywood does this, sometimes they call it a reboot like with Batman Begins, other times, as with The Punisher, they just make another movie with the same character...but with no reference to the previous film and just hope you didn’t notice, or, if you did, the movie doesn’t care.
Reboots, or movies like this that have no mention of previous films are hit or miss with me. Sometimes they do it the way you wish they had in the first place (as with Batman) and other times you wonder why they’re making another one, when the first one was so dang good (as with The Punisher with Tom Jane).
I have to be honest, I wasn’t all that excited to see Dredd. I was never a huge fan of the character and the Stallone movie wasn’t all that great, and the previews for Dredd 3D make the plot seem like a complete rip off of the martial arts movie, Raid: Redemption. But a friend of mine wanted to go, so, hell, I’ll go to hang with a buddy. And...I was pleasantly surprised.
Here’s the plot: Dredd (played by Karl Urban, you remember him from Lord of The Rings as the main Riders of Rohan) and his rookie partner/psychic/hot blond (played by Olivia Thirlby) respond to a call about a triple homicide. Let me be more specific, about three skinned bodies dropped from the top of a skyscraper. After a quick investigation, it becomes apparent that one gang controls the entire building and when Dredd and his rookie partner attempt to arrest someone, the entire building gets locked down and all the gang members are encouraged to kill the Judges. Dredd says “that’s not good.”
The movie’s tone plays an interesting balance between glorifying violence and action, while at the same time showing the cost of violence in a few poignant scenes. It can, at sometimes be morbidly serious, but then be a bit lighthearted and humorous. One of my favorite scenes involved our hero’s escorting a man they arrested, riding an elevator up. The psychic says “he’s thinking about making a move for your gun”. Dredd responds: “Yeah.” The psychic then says “He changed his mind.” Dredd responds: “Yeah.”
It also is the only movie that I know of with a plot device to have a reason for slow motion action scenes. A drug, called “Slo-Mo” effects the user’s perception of time down to a tenth of normal speed. The movie does this well, even beautifully as Dredd and his partner shoot up a room full of Slo-Mo high thugs, showing the bullets enter their face and exiting, blood, teeth and bone slowly moving from where they should be to where shouldn’t. I don’t think I would have ever said this, but in this movie, gore has never been so visually stunning.
However, I do have a few issues. One of them is the ridiculous masculinity of a man (Dredd) who never shows his eyes behind his Judge helmet and kills dozens of people without much thought, and his very pretty rookie partner doesn’t wear a helmet (which shows off her blond, curly hair) because she needs to be able to read people’s minds, ‘cus, you know, she’s a psychic. I’m thinking there’s some kind cultural comment I could make here...but here hair is just so pretty...
I can’t say that this a good movie, in that, it’s so depressing. The fight for the high rise and against the gang who controls it is set in front of a backdrop of millions of people without jobs and a public angst we too familiar with. Although there is a short discussion of actually trying to do some “good” instead of judging, sentences and killing criminals, but trying to make a difference in other ways, there is never any mention of trying to do more on a bigger scale, helping the poor, giving them something to do or believe in or fight for. I know, I know, it’s just a movie and Dredd is just one person, he can’t fix every problem or save every person, but still, with problems SO bad, you’d think some politician would have some grand idea to fix it, you know, like the The New Deal or something.
Dredd 3D isn’t a perfect movie, no one is going to get an Oscar for acting or directing, but if the Academy could look beyond the content and plot and see the skill involved to make these actions scenes so well, with slow motion filming and effects coupled with the new, very real 3D effects, I honestly think this could be in the running for an award for best special effects or cinematography.