Dredd 3D is immersive, unashamedly B-grade, and for the most part, entertaining ride. Directed by Pete Travis (Vantage Point) from an adapted screenplay by writer Alex Garland (28 Days Later and Sunshine), Dredd is a stark, grungy, super-violent hardcore action outing with some stylish and audacious visuals and a bleak, oppressive dystopian vision of the future. Pretty slim on a narrative front, this action extravaganza stars charismatic New Zealand actor Karl Urban (physically engaging and personable despite his face being covered with a helmet for the entire duration) as the eponymous anti-hero, Dredd. He is an elite and respected Judge on the task force in sole charge of policing law and order in Mega-City One, a vast, scummy and violent metropolis on the East Coast of America, which is depicted as an irradiated wasteland. Along with a psychic rookie, Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), whom he has been assigned to evaluate, Dredd finds himself trapped within a 200-story slum run by the resident drug baroness, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey).
The Raid-like premise, which has Dredd and Anderson taking down a relentless barrage of armed militia in tight, blood-soaked skirmishes, will offer up plenty of adrenalin-charged treats for action junkies. Dredd is laced with stylish Blade Runner-esque visuals courtesy of cinematographer Antony Dodd Mantle and features a throbbing score from Paul Leonard Morgan, which was one of the highlights.
For a film this dark and degenerate, the splashes of colour really pop off the screen and it is a testament to Dodd Mantle and Travis for creating a look that could realistically have been pulled off the pages of a comic book, but with the added cinematic vibrancy. Unfortunately there was one plot device that was hard to overlook, being conveniently effects-friendly and seemed to be inserted for the sole motivation of utilizing the slow-motion effect.
I can only assume the comic book is grisly, because this is a very nasty film at times. The bullet-ballet is often captured in stylized slow motion, and watching what happens to a person’s face when it meets a bullet is not for the squeamish.
Some of the claimed self-satire certainly missed the mark for me. But that’s not to say that I didn’t find the wry deadpan humour - courtesy of Urban’s droll, gravelly, Eastwood-channeled delivery, and his satisfyingly cheesy one-liners - to be entertaining.
Headey’s scarred villain was a horrible piece of work and a dangerous enough foe to cause Dredd and the city some grief. Olivia Thirlby was an adequate sidekick, utilizing her unique skills to help turn the advantage, and proving to be convincing in the physical department.
This is slickly designed action spectacle from beginning to end, and while it begins to lose its way in the middle, plodding along and flirting with monotony, and has some distressing policing politics, Dredd is an iron-fisted comic book film that somehow works. It is grungy and unpleasant, but far from ‘Dredd-ful’.
Andrew Buckle - follow Andy on Twitter here: @buckle22
Directed by: Peter Travis
Written by: Alex Garland
Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thrilby, Wood Harris, Lena Headey
Dredd 3D is released in Australia on the 25th of October 2012 and has already been released in the U.S.A.