In 1995, Sylvester Stallone starred in Judge Dredd, an adaptation of the comic character created by John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra. The film about an American law enforcement officer set in the a violent city of the future where uniformed Judges combine the powers of police, judge, jury and executioner, was a hotly anticipated film with a high end budget of $70 million. The film co-starred Armand Assante, Diane Lane, Max Von Sydow and Rob Schneider and was considered one of the larger bombs of the summer season taking in less than $35 million at the domestic box office (it did gather in a profitable $113 million combined domestic/international).
Although the character grew in cult stature and the comic continued, it still took many of us by surprise when Lionsgate announced that the character would be getting the reboot treatment with actor Karl Urban (Star Trek, Red) donning the Judgeís helmet in the title role.
The new Judge Dredd works in Mega City One Ė a violent metropolis that is run by the underground criminal element. Dredd is a feared law enforcement officer which applies his skills against the drug dealers/users of ďSlo-MoĒ, a drug that gives the effect of experiencing reality at a fraction of its normal speed.
During a routine day where Dredd is given the assignment of training Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) a rookie with psychic abilities thanks to a genetic mutation. When Dredd and Anderson are called to a towering apartment complex, they find themselves fighting for their lives in the 200 story building that is run by drug lord Ma-Ma and her gang of heavily armed thugs.
For 80% of the film, Dredd and Anderson are running up and down hallways and stairs of the building shooting at or being shot at by a countless horde. The use of slow-motion makes for some incredible action scenes and the body count quickly amasses to saturation levels easily pleasing our packed screening.
Unfortunately, outside of all the new and graphic ways of killing hoodlums, there isnít much else of a plot to speak of in Dredd 3D. The film definitely is more than a wink wink nod nod to last yearís Festival favorite The Raid: Redemption except the hand-to-hand combat is replaced by some rather impressive fire fights.
Urban does a good job as Dredd (at least he keeps his helmet on), but donít expect him to show any kind of emotional acting range when all you get to see is his lower face. His supporting cast does enough screaming, shooting the dying to complement the filmís objective, but you really wonít be invested in caring if anyone actually survives the tower of death.
The Sylvester Stallone edition of Judge Dredd was very campy and hardly resembled the source material of the comic strip. Dredd 3D is more true to the John Wagner/Carlos Ezquerra style. But watching people do nothing but shoot each other for 90 minutes begins to wear on your interest. And with no characters to care about, the movie is solely kept afloat by the never ending violence.
Luckily there is enough violence to elevate the movie to a recommendation. Itís not The Raid, but it isnít Dredd 1995 either. Itís somewhere in between. Good fun and mindless action that just may have you forgiving the napkin thin characters.