DREDD 3D – Fantastic Fest Review
Set in the not-so-distant future America, an irradiated desert wasteland, DREDD 3D paints a dark, grungy picture of society to come. Based upon the comic book series, this second film adaptation takes the British comic strip source material more to heart, without taking itself too seriously. The Judges in this future, based from the Hall of Justice, are also the jury and executioner… a type of one-stop-shop of the criminal justice system. Less focused on celebrity as Sylvester Stallone’s JUDGE DREDD (1995), DREDD 3D (2012) may feature a relatively simple story, but showcases the extraordinarily bleak, post-industrial mess of a landscape and the overall character of its characters’ world.
Directed by Pete Travis (VANTAGE POINT), DREDD 3D stars Karl Urban (STAR TREK, PATHFINDER) as the infamous, no excuses Judge to be most feared by criminals. Keeping in line with the previous statement about the film not focusing on celebrity, Urban never once removes his helmet in DREDD 3D. This, in turn, requires an actor to enhance their physical presence as well as their vocal range in convincingly selling a character. Urban pulls this off, capturing the same trademark grimace that defined Stallone’s performance in the role, but expanded on his facial articulation to give the character slightly more depth. Fortunately for Urban, that depth is shallow in a character like Dredd and in a movie such as this, heavily preoccupied with every violent, bloody bit of action.
The assumption in DREDD 3D is that the last bastion of humanity — a very loose term in this context — resides within a single mega city that stretches from Boston to Washington, D.C. Surrounding this mega city is a massive wall, separating mankind from the inhospitable Hell of their own creation outside. Those less fortunate to be born and live in the border regions near the wall, find themselves exposed to higher levels of radiation. This brings rise to the mutants, an element of the story not unlike that in TOTAL RECALL, but far less emphasized. In this case, epitomized solely by Judge Anderson, a rookie forced under Dredd’s wing for assessment. Played by Olivia Thirlby (THE DARKEST HOUR), Anderson is given special consideration due to her status as a mutant with a certain special ability that proves extremely valuable.
DREDD 3D wastes little time diving into the filthy reality of the universe it inhabits. Spawned from the rapid onset popularity of a new drug known as Slo-Mo, a rise in significant crimes brings Judges Dredd and Anderson to the notorious Peach Tree mega block, one of several mega structures housing tens of thousands that tower endlessly over the dilapidated remains of the old city. The call is relatively routine, a multiple homicide with three bodies. However, not long after Dredd and Anderson arrive on the scene, things begin to spiral out of control.
The face and personality behind the recent mayhem is MaMa, a curiously fresh and original criminal boss played to a marvelously twisted and sexy outcome by Lena Headey (Queen Gorgo from 300). Physically scarred and as equally deranged and she is emotionally damaged, Headey provides the all-too-rare femme fatale foe that the ultra-masculine Dredd needs to provide the type of pleasingly digestible balance we get from DREDD 3D. With an entire mega block at her command and disposal, MaMa proves to be a force to be reckoned with and not short on the criminal mastermind smarts one expects.
Flipping the coin, and complimentary to her foe, Thirlby provides a certain feminine fragility, a certain innocence to Judge Anderson that further balances this three-way oh hormonal stereotypes. Thirlby captures the frightened girl emotions, but also builds a deeper, more rigid face of a strong woman holding back that resides dangerously just beneath her cute exterior. Both in the cases of Dredd and Anderson, the stereotypes are merely superficial, with the bulk of their depth left implied, residing between the scripted lines, while MaMa wears her abrasive style of restrained madness on her sleeve.
DREDD 3D is a dark, gritty film with a steam punk edge. I found visual and tonal elements of the film in line not with BLADE RUNNER, from the design of the sets to the choices in lighting and how the film plays out. I also found the violence to be favorably excessive and graphic, not unlike in PUNISHER: WAR ZONE. The violence and gore is there for a purpose, and to that purpose it serves to enhance the film as a justifiable mean to its end. The original music from Paul Leonard-Morgan keeps the pace steady and energizing, which is a damn good thing as the majority of the 95-minute running time takes place within this one mega block tower.
The 3D portion of DREDD is commendable, not especially extraordinary, but does serve to enhance certain scenes of action. However, I found the use of the beautifully stylized slow-motion in combination with the 3D to have been leaned upon ever-so-slightly too much. Those viewers who prefer the more visually assaulting, graphically gory violence that tends to invoke subtle laughter of disbelief combines with the flinching reaction similar to watching testicles being abused on America’s Funniest Home Videos… DREDD 3D delivers as much of this as the general audience will permit and just enough to satisfy the more discerning connoisseurs.
On a general note, DREDD 3D is a superior film adaptation to its 1995 predecessor on many levels. For the men out there looking for the beauty and the beast in genre film — that being babes and guns — DREDD 3D presents Olivia Thirlby in a very positive, albeit modest light and as I hope to have clearly conveyed already, lots of guns and violence. For the ladies, well… I entice you to join your man or venture out on your own to see DREDD 3D for two words… bristle (in the form of facial stubble) and brawn — Karl Urban offers you both.
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
DREDD 3D opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, September 21st, 2012.