The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum

DREDD 3-D (2012) *** ½

Before I get to my Dredd 3-D review, I want to address some of the elephants that are presently in the room.

Elephant #1: Does Dredd 3-D rip-off The Raid? Yes and no. Structurally, they are the same. And both films feature a cop trying to work his way up to the top floor of a building ruled by a vicious crime lord, but that’s about where the similarities end. The most obvious difference is that this is a sci-fi action flick whereas The Raid was a martial arts masterpiece. But Dredd 3-D is also different in that many of the inhabitants of the building are just families struggling to get by and/or innocent bystanders. Because of that, we still get to see Judge Dredd trying to uphold the law and protect the citizens instead of just killing wall to wall punks.

Elephant #2: Is it better than the Sylvester Stallone version? Well, I’m not the best person to ask that because I happen to unabashedly love the 1995 Judge Dredd film. I think it works better if you look at it as more of a Stallone vehicle than as a straight Dredd adaptation. It was the last flat out balls to the walls action flick Sly made before his run of hit-or-miss character driven actioners of the late 90’s. Plus, all the robot shit was awesome, the supporting cast was great, and the Cursed Earth scenes were amazing. Having said that, I still think that this new Dredd picture is still one of the better comic book movies of the modern era. Karl Urban is missing the bravado Stallone brought to the role (not to mention the sneer), but he successfully makes Dredd his own. Urban delivers a terrific badass performance and most importantly KEEPS THE HELMET ON the whole movie.

Elephant #3: How’s the 3-D? Well, it’s not bad, but you won’t really be missing anything if you opt for the flat version. The gang members in this movie take a drug called “Slo-Mo”, which makes them feel like they’re in slow motion. Whenever they’re high as a kite, you get to see things from their perspective. For example, when the crime boss Mama (Lena Heady) splashes in her bathtub, the water floats around majestically. It’s a cool effect, but what’s even cooler is when Dredd shoots a bunch of punks while they’re on the drug and we get to see bullets going through their faces in super slow motion. The rest of the action sequences hardly utilize the 3-D, so unless 3-D drug trips are your thing, you won’t really be missing out if you see it in 2-D.

Okay, now that we got that out of the way, I can review Dredd 3-D on its own merits.

Dredd 3-D is a stripped-down, down and dirty, kick ass piece of science fiction badassery. What I liked about the flick was it was a smaller, more intimate kind of movie. It took place in more or less one location, but you got to see quick glimpses that suggested a larger world lying on the outskirts of the film’s universe. Unlike most comic book movies, Dredd 3-D doesn’t try to cram in an origin tale along with twenty years of comic book history into 100 minutes. Instead, it’s more of a day in the life of a badass comic book hero. Often, the film feels like you’ve just picked up a random issue of the comic off the rack. You’re basically dropped into the middle of the action and given the bare minimum amount of exposition to help propel the story.

The production design is simple, but effective. It has that “lived-in” look that futuristic movie societies need to be successful. The budget for this one was noticeably smaller than the Sly flick, so it was a good decision on the filmmakers’ part to keep the flick grounded to more or less just one setting. Because of that, they are able to get a bigger bang for their buck.

And speaking of which, the action is well done, especially considering the cramped quarters. The shootouts are handled competently and at all times they keep the camera fucking still, which is a plus. The gore is plentiful too. Heads explode, hands blow up, people are skinned alive, and bullets course through cheekbones. The best kill though comes when Dredd punches a dude in the Adam’s apple so hard that it leaves a fist print in his throat.

Because of the grittiness of the art direction and the old school aspect of the action choreography, the flick often feels more 90’s than the Stallone version.

Karl Urban does a fine job as Judge Dredd. I particularly liked the way he underplayed things. There’s a scene in the beginning of the movie where Mama throws a bunch of bodies off the top of her building to “send a message”. Later, when she thinks she’s killed Dredd, he emerges from the ashes and throws her most trusted henchman off the same building. Lesser screenplays would’ve had him say, “I’m sending a message!” Here, he remains silent, which makes him more badass. Why hammer home the obvious punchline when you don't have to? I also liked his character dynamic with his psychic rookie partner. He knows they’re clearly outmatched, but he lets her make all the decisions to see what she’s made of. I also really dug his Clint Eastwood inspired drawl too.

In a year stuffed to the gills with comic book movies, Dredd 3-D is one of the best. It lacks the depth of say The Dark Knight Rises, or the spectacle of The Avengers. However, it does its thing; it does it well, and sends you on your way. There is something to be said for that.

Tags: action, comic book movie, d, in 3-d, sci-fi

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