Don’t let the mask fool you. Judge Dredd has no tolerance for funny business. He will make good use of his multi-functional gun that includes a stun gun, armor piercing rounds, napalm, a regular rifle with a silencer and God knows what else. He’s also not afraid to deliver ridiculous-sounding threats that don’t belong outside of movies with deadpan sincerity to thousands of nearby strangers through a loudspeaker. There will be inevitable comparisons to The Raid: Redemption, but unlike that movie, this one has a wicked sense of humor. If The Raid is fine chocolate ice cream, Pete Travis‘ Dredd 3D is a cake made of bullets with sprinkles, fudge and a cherry red Judge helmet on top.
Played by Karl Urban in a mostly thankless role where almost three quarters of his face is obscured, Dredd regales us with a story that takes place in a distant future where the job of a police officer, executioner and judge have all been consolidated into one job in an America in shambles. Anderson, a psychic freshly recruited by the force (Olivia Thirlby) is on her first assignment with Dredd. Their first and potentially last stop is a high-rise apartment complex called Peach Trees inhabited by our resident baddie Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), pronounced “Maw-Maw” by everybody in the movie. Peach Trees is where Ma-Ma and her gang manufacture and push a new highly-addictive drug that is being spread through the city, shamelessly named Slo-Mo. I assure you I am not making any of these names up. It’s actually a lot of fun to watch the masked Urban do his best raspy Christian Bale impression with his perma-frown say things like “Peach trees” and “Maw-Maw.”
When users are under the influence of Slo-Mo, their brain apparently processes time as if it’s passing at a fraction of the speed, causing them to feel like they’re in a Zack Snyder movie. The segments of the film shot in super slow motion are actually quite stunning to look at. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (Oscar winner and frequent Danny Boyle collaborator) splashes the frame with super saturated blood reds and yellows that mix together beautifully to look like moving paintings. These colorful shoot-outs call to mind the late Tony Scott at his best.
If that weren’t enough, there are also some devilishly fun scenes showcasing Anderson’s telepathy. That, mixed in with Headey at her most over-the-top menacing. This movie never forgets to remind us that it’s a bloody comic book movie. Comic book movies (and audiences alike, including myself) seem to have forgotten what the experience of reading a comic book is like. Adapting a comic book into a film should be trickier than just making it dark and grounded. Just because it worked (mostly) for Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies doesn’t mean that should become the across-the-board rule. Dredd 3D grabs that conceit and hurls it through the window. Leave your reservations at the door and have a good time. Dredd 3D is a total blast.
Dredd 3D hits theaters on Friday, September 21st.