Dredd 3D (2012) – Film Review
Director: Pete Travis
Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey
by Dan Berlinka
After the Stallone-starring, helmet-removing, comedy-sidekick-having 1995 version, fans of the 2000 AD comic (even casual ones like me) were understandably wary of a new attempt to bring this classic strip to the screen.
But by Grud, writer Alex Garland (a man who knows a thing or two about playing with genre) and director Pete Travis have pretty much nailed it, simply by staying true to the source material and then… doing it really well.
Casting is spot on – Karl Urban gives the finest performance by a lower jaw since Peter Weller in Robocop (though that film does still have the satirical edge over this one), while Olivia Thirlby’s Judge Anderson has a melancholy vulnerability that humanises the team and hints at the emotional cost of dispensing instant justice. Lena Headey’s villainous Ma-Ma likewise brings surprising depth and credibility to what could easily have been a one-note character.
“Tone is bleak and gritty”
But where this potential franchise-starter really succeeds is in the very sensible decision to create a story that feels like an episode, rather than a ‘look at all my toys’ attempt to cram over 30 years of history into one movie. The plot is not dissimilar to the recent hit The Raid (albeit with more explosive ammo), but the tone is bleak and gritty, closer to District 9 or even The Wire. The presence of Wood Harris as one of the criminals inevitably leads to a subconscious impression that Judge Dredd is taking down Avon Barksdale.
The 3D photography is stylish. Although it never renders the unstinting violence meaningless. There’s clever use of slow motion built into the plot. The 95 minute running time keeps the pacing tight and the storytelling economical. Of course, it’s not going to be for everyone.
It’s probably best avoided if you have a low shoot ‘em up threshold. But if you like action movies with a bit of a dark undercurrent, this one is well worth watching.