Here is a good news; “Dredd 3D” is better and more enjoyable than that forgettable 1995 film based on the same British comic book by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra. While we have seen its dystopian world countless times before and the movie does not bring anything new or fresh much to its rather simple plot, it has some distinctions as a competent SF action film, and I was sort of entertained while lots of bad guys were kept being killed and the main characters remained nearly uninjured amid so many bullets and explosions on the screen.
At the beginning, we are introduced to a typical gloomy futuristic world where the Earth and the human race are at the near bottom. Most of American land is turned to radioactive poisoned wasteland, and surviving people are now living together in a huge metropolis which covers from Washington D.C. to Boston. You may think this is not so small, but imagine around 800 million people being crammed into this region while protected by the big walls surrounding the city from radioactivity – that’s definitely not something which can be called a good life.
Lots of people live in very big skyscraper buildings in the city as they struggle with poverty, and crimes naturally happen quite a lot in such a poor environment like that. As a draconian solution for this problem, there are the army of ‘judges’ who can be police, judge, and, in some cases, executioner, and one of the most famous judges is Dredd, but you cannot distinguish him easily from other judges because the lead actor Karl Urban always wears his protection helmet in the movie. If you thought Tom Hardy in “The Dark Knight Rises”(2012) was stuck in a thankless role, then reconsider your opinion after watching Urban delivering the lines as blandly as it is required with only his mouth and chin being shown throughout the film.
A good thing is, Dredd has recently gotten an identifiable character to interact with after dealing with another bunch of badass criminals as usual during the opening action sequence. Her name is Anderson(Olivia Thirbly), and she does not want to wear helmet just because it impedes her mind-reading ability. In the world where criminals are willing to fight and shoot rather than surrender themselves to judges to be sent to jail, that does not look like a wise choice, but at least she can know whether they are really determined to shoot her or not, can’t she?
Because Dredd’s direct boss considers accepting her due to her psychic ability in spite of several good reasons for disqualification, Dredd reluctantly takes this young rookie to his field service for checking her competence as a judge, and, like any main characters in buddy cop movies, they come across a very big danger as soon as they start their patrol. When they decide to dig deeper into a simple case of gruesome multiple killings at one of those skyscraper buildings, a powerful crime lord named Mama(Lena Headey) is not so pleased about that – especially when Dredd and Anderson arrest Key(Wood Harris), who can tell a lot about her gang organization as one of her main henchmen.
Thanks to Mama’s prompt action, Dredd and Anderson soon find themselves in the circumstance not that different from the one shown in a recent Indonesian action film “Raid: Redemption”(2011). The building is completely blocked from the outside as Mama takes the full control of the building at her lair which happens to be at the top of the building, and then she coldly announces the killing time for her thugs. Dredd and Anderson realize there is really no one to help them in the building, and they must find a way to get out of the building with their arrested criminal for themselves.
I have no idea about whether the movie is influenced by “Raid: Redemption” or not, but the movie provides its entertainment amid lots of shootings and explosions in its vast closed space. Its dark and shabby corridors inside the building are good background for actions, and the cinematographer Anthony Dod Mentle, who won an Oscar for “Slumdog Millionaire”(2008), does a nice job of providing enough gritty feeling to the action scenes, but I think the movie could use less slow motion effects, which are usually used for describing the effect of new drug produced by Mama’s organization. Most of them exist mainly for 3D glasses, and, even if you do not wear 3D glasses, the intent is clearly shown whenever things such droplets of blood are flying across the screen.
The director Pete Travis, who did not make much impression on me with his previous work “Vantage Point”(2008), did a better job here. Although the premise is pretty simple, he keeps the actions in the film crackling throughout its short running time(95 minutes including the end credits). Urban does not have many things to do with his character, but he delivers an adequate performance within the limits forced upon him, and Olivia Thirlby supports him well as someone we can identify with more than Dredd. While the bad guys in the film are mostly cardboards to be shot or thrown to the ground floor, Lena Headey is a little more interesting as a ruthless boss who can pull more strings than we expect. As a woman who has climbed up to her current position in very hard ways, Mama will not give up her business easily, and we know she will protect it by any means necessary.
Overall, “Dread 3D” is a well-made violent SF action film which is more comfortable to enjoy than “Raid: Redemption”. It is less intense and less relentless, but it is also less mindless, and the movie has few nice little things besides its violent actions. As a competent pilot, the movie certainly has the potentials for the next stories to follow, and I heard that they are planning to make two sequels despite its modest failure at US box office; maybe we can expect better things later.