Not a Movie Snob - Dredd 3D

Posted on Saturday, September 22, 2012 at 06:00 PM

"Just another day at the office"

Dredd 3D

'Going in cold' is an expression used by us film aficionado's (I've heard it batted around by the layman as well) to denote a filmgoing experience wherein you see a movie of which you know nothing, nor have heard or seen anything, about. To go in cold is to go to a theatre (most likely a multiplex), pick a movie based on poster or name alone and roll the $12 (less on Tuesdays) dice. Hitting a show cold can be one of the most exhilarating or frustrating experiences in filmgoing. On the one hand, you could stumble into a gem and leave the House walking on clouds and excited to spread the word about a discovery that now feels uniquely yours. On the other, you could plunk down in front of a clunker and long for those twelve dollars back like a girlfriend who just broke up with you at the height of your infatuation with her.

I can't say Dredd 3D was entirely a cold shot for me, as I saw a trailer and heard a podcast review on it beforehand. But I can say the character was cold as I have never read the original Dredd comics the movie's characters and setting are based on, and if I did see the 1995 Sal Stallone adaptation, I remember nothing about it (which is fortunate for me, from what I've heard). Also, to be frank (you be Alice), I've about had my fill of comic book movies for a few seasons. The trailer didn't do much for me either when I saw it. So I was gambling my hard earned simoleans when I walked into a showing of Dredd 3D this afternoon and while I can't say my experience was exhilarating, it certainly wasn't a disappointment either.

Dredd takes place in a post-apocalyptic future (is there any other kind these days?) where a giant wall separates the 'outside' wasteland from the 800 million population Mega-City One, which is a giant urban city sprawl that stretches from what used to be known as Boston to what used to be known as Washington DC. The city is a desolate, desperate and dirty place where approximately 16,000 serious crimes are committed every day. In place of a police force and the judicial system there are Judges, a law enforcement army who have the power of on the spot judge, jury and executioner.

The movie concerns a Judge by the name of McDonald, just kidding, it obviously concerns the eponymous Judge Dredd and the sticky situation he and a new recruit he's training find themselves in when a routine investigation into some rather gruesome deaths results in an all out war with a gang of drug dealers and their ex-prostitute psychopath boss Mama. The gangsters hold control over a 'block' which are extended high rises and, in this block's case, a vertical slum. Dredd and his little buddy (who also happens to be a mutant, possessing telekinetic abilities, which come in very handy throughout) now must fight their way from the first floor of thugs to the 200th, where Mama waits a-cackling with a loaded gun (of sorts). This set up makes for literal floors upon floors of gooey, crunchy, flaming gunplay that goes as easy on the bloody violence as Michael Moore did on George W. Bush in Fahrenheit 9/11. But there's an add-on to the banging boom shoot 'em upping: The drug the pushers are peddling happens to be called Slo-Mo, a drug which makes the brain perceive time as ticking by at 1% of its normal rate.

For a director with visually extravagant cravings, this creates a playground of play dough to shape and craft into some truly beautiful and awe striking representations of ultra-violence. Seeing a bullet enter a man's cheek in super slow-mo on one side and exit riding rivers of popping crimson from the other may sound like a grisly act to witness, but from where I was sitting, it looked pretty damn neat. The 3D buffed this effect out (quite literally) and while I still feel it's a money-grab and provides more of a distraction than a spike in entertainment value, this film does feature some of the best uses of the medium thus far.

Karl Urban is the actor portraying Dredd, if you can call speaking in a low, grizzled monotone and pulling the corners of your mouth down to your collarbone acting. I'm pretty neutral on his job. There is acting in body language and vocal delivery, but, really, how many actors do you think there are in Hollywood right now who can perma-scowl and do a decent pissed off Clint Eastwood impression? Probably quite a few. So I'm neutral. Dredd's trainee is played by Olivia Thirlby, who's been in quite a lot of stuff, most of which I've never seen, but she was memorable as Ellen Page's wisecracking friend Leah in Juno. Anyway, she's good, not great, here. In fact, there are really no memorable performances to be mentioned, which further accentuates the emphasis put on the action and set pieces.

Mega-City One is a hell of a cool set piece in this film, which makes it all the more disappointing we don't get to spend more time in it before our hapless heroes have their hands filled dispatching with the dregs of Mega's Peach Trees block. But the film opens on these gritty streets with a fine car chase and some meaty justice meted out and it makes me all the more hopeful this film does well enough to acquire a sequel greenlighting from the movie honcho head cheese greenlighters so we can spend more time exploring this city of cities and its shady inhabitants.

Dredd (or Dredd 3D, depending on your viewing preference) is a movie for the action fan who isn't afraid of a little (or a lot) of graphic bloodletting. The performances are forgettable, the plot isn't afraid at times of resorting to action film cliche's and the end bears some questionable logic, but it's one of the most visually gorgeous and satisfying movies of the year and the action is fast and furious throughout.
So, in the end, simoleans well spent. And what more can you say for a movie than that?

Rating: ***½



NOTE: The showtimes listed on come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to