Viktoriya Berezovskaya, ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
As the latest child of cinema’s recent love affair with comic books, Dredd 3D, promised to be gritty, action-packed, and full of gratuitous violence. In ways, Dredd 3D delivered. From the stunningly filthy urban visuals to the tastefully-executed violence, Dredd 3D is a little familiar, a little different, and certainly not for the faint of heart.
The opening sequence of Dredd 3D takes us to Mega-City 1, where the frank and gravelly monotone, Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) gives us a rundown of the place—a massively crime-ridden urban sprawl from Boston to D.C. in the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is America. Murders, drug deals, gang violence—you name a problem, Mega-City 1 has it on a super-sized scale. Judges, the only form of law enforcement, have the moves, the tools, and the fierce mentality needed to deal with it—and even they only manage to respond to a mere 6% of reported crimes.
The setting is as bleak as it sounds. However, the visuals are strikingly gritty, gut-wrenching and awe-inspiring in their representation of the uncomfortable filth that is Metro-City 1. Doe-eyed crowds of civilians during the first action sequences lend a brutal reality to the bleak circumstances of Mega-City citizens. Little touches in the background—like civilians recording a fight in progress on their smart phones—lend a special, haunting quality to the film that will blow audiences away in the introductory twenty minutes of the film. That subtlety dies down after the introduction, but the visuals continue to impress. Gory visuals of people getting shot, skinned, and brutalized in all ways both satisfy the hardcore, strong-stomached action moviegoer audiences, while managing to miraculously add to the setting’s frank and up-front presentation of the reality of Mega-City 1 life without appearing superfluous.
Major plot device Slo-Mo, a drug that slows down the brain’s perception of reality, allows for gorgeous psychedelic slow-motion visuals that come as a welcome contrast with the otherwise dusty grey color scheme. This plot is introduced as soon as audiences are adjusted to the amoral brutality of both Mega-City 1 and Judge Dredd’s approach to law enforcement. On this particular day in the life of a Judge, Dredd is tasked with soft-spoken psychic Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a rookie in need of assessment in the field. Her first assignment: a large-scale drug bust in impoverished high-rise.
Even with all its striking visuals and tasteful amorality, my judgment of Dredd is not all positive. For all its build-up, once the plot takes off in earnest, it falls a little flat. Alex Garland, whose sensitive writing brought a tangible human touch to earlier sci-fi hits, 28 Days Later and Sunshine, faltered with Dredd 3D. The plot lacks substance, the dialogue is uninspired, and the entire middle portion of the film lacks both the suspense of the Die Hard-esque experience the story sets up for Dredd 3D. I found myself unsure of what kind of movie Dredd 3D was trying to be and the acting didn’t help. Karl Urban’s performance was hindered by a mask that covered nearly all of his face, and the gravelly monotone voice in which he delivered each line was hit-or-miss. Olivia Thirlby, the supposed vehicle for the entire movie’s pathos, isn’t very expressive. Lena Heady’s understated performance of Ma-Ma, the deadly calm gang leader who controls the market for Slo-Mo, straddles the line between impressively disturbing and flatly unemotional.
Dredd 3D is a worthy sci-fi action experience with refreshing down-to-earth grit. What the film lacks in plot substance and character development it seeks to make up for in extremely memorable visuals and satisfying action sequences.
See it: If you want to be immersed in a unique sci-fi setting, or if you do not mind seeing people brutalized in explicit slow-motion.
Don’t see it: If you want to see something well-written and emotionally stirring, or if you don’t like the sight of blood.