Movie Review: Dredd 3D
Austin360.com | Austin American-Statesman
It is an eternal question: Why remake a good movie? Shouldn't you be trying to remake bad ones? Well, that's what happened with "Dredd 3D," a second attempt to make Judge Dredd, the iconic British science-fiction comic book hero, work for the cinematic masses. You might recall the inadvertently cheesy first attempt starring Sylvester Stallone (who really did have the correct mouth) and, uh, Rob Schneider. Oops. But the stunningly violent "Dredd 3D" strips out pretense of satire, a crucial element of the British comic. Oops again.
Karl Urban, so genuinely funny and sweet as Dr. McCoy in the Star Trek reboot, stars as Judge Dredd, the one-man judge, jury and executioner that patrols MegaCity One, the vast urban area that stretches from Boston to Washington, D.C. The MegaCity is a hellish-looking place, dominated by 200-story tower blocks that look just miserable.
Dredd is asked to take on a rookie, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who is not a natural fit for the job, but is psychic. Dredd, a stickler for detail, naturally, is not wild about taking on a partner who failed the entrance exam, which results in a lot of Dredd demanding answers to law questions and frowning at her (Dredd never smiles on screen).
Things quickly go haywire when the two investigate some murders. Soon Dredd and Anderson find themselves locked in a tower block controlled by Ma-Ma (Lena Headey, who honed her chops as a sick loon playing Cersei Lannister on "Game of Thrones"), the leader of a drug cartel producing Slo-Mo, which reduces perception to one percent normal speed and gives director Pete Travis an excuse to do a lot of slow-motion 3D stuff.
This includes a tremendous amount of spurting blood. "Dredd" quickly devolves into a first-person shooter as Dredd and Anderson move through the building, "Dredd" becomes so gory, sadistic and dark that it moves well into horror territory, which might be perfect for Fantastic Fest, but it's not so hot for "Dredd."
None of this is really the actors' fault. In keeping with comic book tradition, we never see Dredd's face outside of the helmet, which works brilliantly in pen-and-ink, but reduces Urban's expressive face to a frowning mouth and a voice. So he sort of defaults to this Clint Eastwood thing that might resonate with people who have never heard of Dredd.
And the movie wastes completely Wood Harris (a.k.a. Avon Barksdale from "The Wire"), who spends most of his time in handcuffs and discusses what he's going to do to Anderson if he ever gets out of these cuffs. A shame.
There are moments of intelligence (if not humor,) a sub-story here about the nature of justice. Dredd seems like the ultimate no-second-chances guy, but he's not an idiot. Anderson, being psychic, can access the backstories of criminals and citizens in ways Dredd cannot. But the movie fails to develop these threads in favor of more gore (and no, absolutely no children should see this movie).
All of this represents a blown opportunity, but maybe it is for the best. Maybe some things just do not translate from the comics page at all.