IN SHORT: In a dystopian future, a vicious gang leader locks down a skyscraper in order to kill two judges. Unfortunately for her, these “judges” come packing some serious heat.
WHAT IT IS: A tight, exciting action movie that entertains from start to finish. Dredd 3D is a great example of a compact, focused, well-executed story that knows what it wants to be and accomplishes it.
WHAT IT IS NOT: Well, it’s not kid friendly. That’s for sure. It’s not slasher gore, but it is a graphic movie that earns its R rating. The movie also lacks depth. The characters and the world they inhabit are interesting, don’t get me wrong, but they’re clearly not the focus. The action is.
WHAT I THOUGHT: Let’s just get this out of the way. Dredd 3D is a fantastic action movie. My first reaction after finishing it was to watch it again. It’s been a while since I saw a pure action movie that just hit all the right notes. Dredd 3D is that action movie.
The mood of the movie is well done. Here is a dystopian future where hundreds of millions live within one massive, unbroken city stretching across the eastern coast of North America. The city seethes with the energy of too many people crammed too tightly together. Its scattered law enforcement can barely hold the chaos at bay. Even though we only get glimpses of this future outside the main story arc, it still manages to feel believable.
The action is exciting, well paced, and very violent. It’s a fun movie to watch. However, all of that focus on action is going to take its toll elsewhere. Judge Dredd, the titular character, isn’t much of a character. He’s more an unstoppable, bullet-spewing force of nature than a human being. His emotional range includes: the scowl, the intense scowl, and the super extra scowly scowl.
There are some brief moments where the movie humanizes Dredd, such as when he stuns two kids holding him at gunpoint instead of shooting them dead (his normal response to problems), but these moments are few and far between.
His sidekick, the rookie judge Anderson, fairs much better. Her story arc is a predictable progression, but it is fun to watch her grow from an unsure newbie that Dredd views with contempt to a capable partner he respects. Her journey is the most interesting in the movie … probably because it’s the only character arc actually in the movie.
To sum it up, Dredd 3D doesn’t try to be a whole lot of things. It sticks to a few core ideas and gets them right. In the end, that’s why it succeeds and why it’s a blast to watch.
VERDICT: Strongly Recommended.