If it's crap ... We'll tell you
It is really sad when you find a movie that blows you away and yet, nobody else has either heard of it or is watching it, and it bombs at the Box Office. This is one of the best times I had at the movies this year. Dredd (notice how I leave out the 3D, I'll get into that later) has the most bombastic action I have seen since The Raid. Which is funny because both of their plot lines are eerily similar even though Dredd was in the works long before the The Raid, but The Raid came out first so everyone wants to compare them. I am going to start off by saying, that I don't think they should be compared. While one relies heavily on martial arts and has the claustrophobic feeling of an apartment building, Dredd is a straight shoot'em up where the apartment complex is so massive that it almost feels like its own town.
For those not familiar with Judge Dredd: Judge Dredd is a comic book character that has been around since the 1970s, and first started appearing in a British comic magazine called 2000 A.D. The original premise is that the United States is a nuclear wasteland but there are a few cities still around, the largest one called Mega City One (which stretches basically the whole east coast). Crime is so out of control that a newly formed justice division is created called the judges. They are basically cops who not only enforce the law but act as a judge, jury and executioner. Judge Dredd was the most ruthless and law abiding one. The comics revolved around various cases and had a few stories that were more serialized. Judge Dredd the character is massively popular in Britain, but other then a shitty movie in the 90s with Sylvester Stallone, it never gained popularity in the United States. Interesting fact, Robocop was partially inspired by Judge Dredd, and character wise they do have a lot in common.
So now we have Dredd. The story follows Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) as he takes a rookie named Cassandra Anderson (played by Olivia Thirlby) on assessment with her shadowing him. In this world mutants do exist (heavily populate the comics), and Dredd's Superior isn't sure about letting Anderson become a Judge because she didn't pass her tests. However, Anderson is the strongest psychic the force has seen. When she concentrates she can read minds and even enter their minds. So Dredd agrees to take her out on duty to see if she is suitable for the job. Things get crazy though when they take a call to a housing complex called Peach Trees where a drug lord nicknamed Ma-Ma (Lena Headey, who is pretty sadistic in this movie) had her men kill three junkies, by skinning them alive, shooting them up with Slo-mo (a drug that makes everything appear in slow motion) and throwing them off a balcony, so their deaths feel like forever. Upon arrival, Dredd and Anderson arrest one of Ma-Ma's henchmen and she decides to lock the whole complex down. No one can leave until the Judges are dead.
What makes this film great isn't so much the script. There is nothing wrong with it, it may have one or two cheesy moments but overall it is well thought out. Though the concept isn't original, it makes up for it in the film style. It is overly violent almost to a cartoonish degree, and that is its greatest charm. You find yourself wondering well what can top a guy's head exploding with a flare. Director Pete Travis, whose other work includes Vantage Point (not good), film style is practically tailor made for the Judge Dredd comics. It envisions a grimy future of crime and decrepit buildings and in some ways reminds me of District 9.
Karl Urban pulls off Dredd by going with a guttural sounding voice a la Batman, and his facial expression is almost identical to some iconic Dredd images. Olivia Thirlby isn't somebody I would think of for playing Cassandra Anderson (major character in the comics, especially in Judge Death story arc) however she mostly pulls it off despite looking like a little kid when standing next to Dredd. The soundtrack is awesome, and matches the extreme violence with electro rock beats.
I have one complaint about Dredd and its lack 3D use. This film looks gorgeous making bodies ripping apart look like art, and only a few scenes add to that with 3D. A majority of the movie is not in 3D at all, I took off my glasses in certain parts to check. So the 3D really isn't worth it when looking at the price (usually never is). I would say this is pretty much everything you could want from a Judge Dredd movie and people that have problems with the film, might have a problem with the source material. This version of Judge Dredd is the closest adaptation in terms of character, look and atmosphere you can get.
9/10 - Forget The Expendables 2. If you are an action movie fan, this is the movie you need to see. The violence in this film memorable and actually looks awesome. The main problem with the film is the crappy trailers for it and whoever is marketing it. While the script isn't what I would call weak, it is simplistic. However, overriding that script is great direction, over the top violence, and actors who look like they are really having fun with the role. Here is to hoping they make a sequel and bring in Judge Death. Oh and don't bother with the 3D.
Instead of the crappy trailer, here is a clip from early in the movie.