To quote a friend who was lucky enough to see the film before me, “Dredd 3D is like Ronseal – it does exactly what it says on the tin.” He was right, Dredd 3D does deliver exactly what it promises. It is a no frills adult action film, full of blood, violence, stunning special effects and a collection of characters harder than a big bag full of nails. Reminiscent of Predator for its commitment to filling the screen with nothing but great big guns, grizzly deaths and a simple yet effective storyline; and similar in narrative structure to the recent martial arts extravaganza The Raid: Redemption, Dredd 3D is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
Karl Urban had big boots to fill taking on the role of Judge Dredd. The helmet, gun, badge and uniform of the most famous of Judges demand much responsibility, and Urban does not disappoint. He delivers a powerful and commanding performance. The gravelly voice and no-nonsense attitude are spot on, both for the character of Judge Dredd and the dark tone of the film. The decision to never reveal Dredd’s face throughout is gutsy but effective, and Urban more than makes up for this creative restriction.
Dredd’s main rival in Director Pete Travis’ imagining is Ma-Ma, played by Lena Headey. One of the most terrifying antagonists in recent film history, Headey delivers a truly harrowing performance. With a scarred face, troubled past and murderous attitude, the survival of Dredd and his rookie partner Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) will keep you on the edge of your seat, if only for knowing the consequences of Ma-Ma getting hold of them.
As expected, the screenplay from Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine) is remarkable. Travis takes this script along with the characters developed by Carlos Ezquerra and John Wagner and stamps a uniquely adult comic style on the grungy dystopian future landscape of Mega City One.
Due to a powerful script, talented direction, and some of the most terrifyingly antagonistic characters in recent film history, you identify with Dredd and Anderson almost immediately. Once they become trapped in their concrete jungle nightmare, you are desperate for them to survive.
I’m often sceptical of 3D films, as they often only utilise the extra dimension as a cheap gimmick for increased cinema ticket prices, instead of using the technology to enhance the viewing experience. Not the case with Dredd 3D though. The 3D action, along with the films trademark slow motion segments make for a thoroughly engaging spectacle.
Dredd 3D could have taken the popular epic approach often associated with futuristic action films and run the risk biting off more than it could chew. It didn’t. It is a compact, shocking, thoroughly entertaining adult action film which ticks all of the boxes for both fans and newcomers alike.