On the surface, “Dredd 3D” seems doomed to be a trainwreck of a film. Its plot lacks substance, it’s a remake of a failed 90s film, and its two leads seem destined to develop romantic tension.
Luckily, “Dredd” manages to rise above its mediocre trappings and ends up as a genuinely entertaining action/thriller.
Set in a post-apocalyptic megacity, the world of “Dredd” is filled to the brim with crime and poverty. The only force keeping the megacity from falling into utter chaos are the fascistic “judges”, men and women who serve as judge, jury, and executioner.
The plot is nothing special, a story of a day in the life of the eponymous Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) as he goes on a ride-along with rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) straight into a hellish slum. It’s an odd mix of “Training Day” and “The Raid: Redemption” that serves its purpose well enough.
Where “Dredd” really shines is in its divergence from the standard Hollywood formula. There is amazingly no awkwardly forced romance sub-plot. In fact, Judge Anderson’s portrayal is miles ahead of most women in action films. She is neither a helpless damsel nor an unstoppable badass. “Dredd” is filled with competent, capable women, most notably its main villain Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) who is as cunning as she is merciless.
The action is beautifully shot and simultaneously gruesomely vivid. “Dredd” isn’t afraid to stop and examine the dark reality of the world it inhabits, and it’s in these moments that it stands in a league of its own.
You wouldn’t expect a movie with 3D in its title to delve into issues like the dehumanization of the poor by law enforcement, or the use of white phosphorous in warfare, but “Dredd” gleefully defies expectations.
While the plot is painfully predictable at times, “Dredd’s” execution makes it a cut-above standard action fare.