Imagine if it was this guy beating Rodney King.
The story takes place in a violent, futuristic city named Mega City One where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop named Dredd (Karl Urban) teams with a trainee (Olivia Thirlby) to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO (lead by Lena Headey).
Maybe I’m alone on this boat but I have never ever seen the 1995 Sylvester Stallone original, so I went into this flick with a pretty open-mind, expecting good, bloody things, even if the trailer didn’t do much for me. Now that I’ve seen this, I don’t even think I need to bother with the original. Sorry Sly! I gave you all of my money a month ago!
Another reason besides the trailer, as to why this film didn’t do much for me was because it’s directed by Pete Travis, aka the dude who did the political Groundhog Day, Vantage Point a couple of years back and we all know how that crap turned out. However, the guy actually brings out a certain type of fun, but controlled energy that it seems like this source material needed in the first-place. Since this is an R-rated action flick, you can expect all sorts of action, violence, blood, and guts shooting at the screen, (in fine 3D, may I add) but this time is used with a grittier edge. Actually, a very grittier edge as I don’t think I have ever really felt the need to take a shower from watching a movie in awhile but it adds to the whole look and feel of this flick.
You also can’t help but love how Travis seems like he knows his audience this time around and doesn’t ever seem to alienate them by giving them a cheesy subplot to flesh these characters out, or give them any heartfelt emotional breakthrough that doesn’t seemed deserved. No, the guy sticks straight to the violence and blood, and actually lets loose a couple of funny, but dead-pan one-liners hit you when you least expect it. Sometimes I even missed it because everybody in the theater that I was at with just started howling and I don’t know what happened there. As for all of the political themes that apparently translates from the comics themselves, I couldn’t really find much but you can tell that a lot of this talks about the world we may be fore-seeing due to high-levels of violence and crime running rampant throughout the streets. It’s pretty obvious, but not as heavy-handed as most movies, let alone action ones, that use the same premise and idea.
Where I think that this film sort of screwed itself up with was how the action never really came full-force for me. Yeah, there’s a bunch of cool scenes where people are getting their heads blown-up to pieces and a couple of sweet slo-mo scenes that look even cooler when somebody’s getting shot, but it all happens in a spread-apart fashion that sort of takes away the intensity that this film could have really had. It’s not a slow movie by any means, it just doesn’t really pick up the full head of steam that you thought it would and ends up being a film that follows the pattern of “short burst of action, follow plot. short burst of action, follow plot.” This goes on the whole film and even though I was never bored with it, I couldn’t help but wish they added more action to the mix.
Also, where the hell was that final, big shoot-out? Now, I’m no full-on lover of action movies but when I see an action movie that has such promise between two opposing forces like this one here, you think there’d be some final show-down where both go at it like no other. We do sort of get that, but it happens in a way that’s a bit anti-climactic to the point of where I was reminded of the last showdown in Gangs of New York, where there is all this set-up, all of this hype, and all of this suspense, and it ends up just doing nothing, really.
Despite the action, the plot also could have been a bit more wild and crazy, but also a bit more believable in it’s strange way. The reason I say this is because you’d think with all of the people that are going after Dredd and the rookie, that they would have a hell of a lot harder time getting to the top and killing Ma-Ma, but that’s not really the case. Somehow, someway, without giving too much away, they get to where they need to go pretty easily and it sort of ties into the whole action-element of this flick to where I felt like they really needed to give it an extra-dosage of extreme and wild action to make it all the more exciting. Still, this is a bit of nit-pick if I must say.
It was reported that Karl Urban had been wanting to play this character for the longest time, and 9 times out of 10, that usually means it’s going to be a passion project, by a certain star, that nobody else really shares the same passion with. That 1 time out of 10 is actually what we have here as Urban seems to have a lot of fun playing the straight-laced, vicious, dead-pan hero, Judge Dredd. Granted, Urban isn’t doing anything other than killing people, making serious one-liners, and talking with the same growl that Clint Eastwood had back in his glory days, but he owns it and makes this character a pretty kick-ass one that makes you know when he shows up, shit’s going to get fucked up for sure. It also helps that the costume is really, really cool.
Olivia Thirlby seemed like a strange choice to have in an action film, but she actually does a good job with it because I think that is her whole act here. She isn’t a sadistic and violent mofo like Dredd, instead, she’s a lot more compassionate towards her victims and likes to think about what’s right and what’s wrong with certain people and situations, which causes her and Dredd to actually create a cool chemistry. It was also cool to see this action flick have a chick as the villain here and Lena Headey does a marvelous job at playing the villain, a drug-lord named Ma-Ma, who is just as sadistic and violent as Dredd but instead, is on the opposite side of the law. Headey is good here because she doesn’t over-play the role and is a lot more subtle with it, using her scarred-look to convey some sick and evil ideas that could possibly be on her mind. Nothing spectacular, but at least it wasn’t over-the-top crazy like I was expecting from her, no offense ladies. Also, it was great to see Wood Harris have some juicy screen-time as one of Ma-Ma’s right-hand man that seems to be having a lot of fun with this material, as well. Been awhile since I’ve seen that guy in a prominent role and I’m glad to see him in one here.
Consensus: Though it doesn’t fully satisfy in terms of action, Dredd 3D is still a fun, bloody, and R-rated piece of entertainment that benefits from a gritty look and good performances from a strange, but well-cast group of stars.