Ka-pow, ka-pow, rat-a-tat-tat-tat bang bang splatter — lots of guns and lots of grisly death get the 3-D treatment in Dredd 3D, a very nice use of the effect in live action movie.
I mean “nice” in the sense that you can really see the blood splatter and the whizzing bullets and the droplets of stuff that always seem to be in the air. Like the better animated 3-D movies, what the 3-D adds is a kind of depth and, because the movie takes place inside a giant highrise, it heightens the sense of the size of the building and how fair the top is from the hard ground.
So, that kind of nice.
Dredd (Karl Urban) is a judge, the all-purpose law enforcement protecting what’s left of civil society in a future world where everybody lives in a giant dirty city surrounded by a dusty wasteland. Judges arrive at the scene of a crime and pronounce sentence, make an arrest and, when needed, can even carry out an execution. Dredd wears a helmet that covers his eyes.
And there you are, the entirety of his character.
For the purposes of this movie, which pretty much takes place on one day over a few hours, he is partnered with Anderson (Olivia Thirby), a newbie who is probably not cut out for this work. But, while she didn’t do so well on the entrance exam, she does have special psychic powers, which is useful when they wind up trapped in Peach Trees, a massive prison-like housing complex controlled by the gangster Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). Her operation sells, among other things, slo-mo, a drug that makes users see the world, helpfully, like the slow-motion effect of a 3-D movie, giving, say, water drops a chance to twinkle like diamonds. When the judges show up, she barricades them inside and instructs the residents not to get in the way of her killing them.
This movie doesn’t get in the way of killing either, though, of course, to make it last the full hour and a half, the two judges do a fair amount of felling an unending stream of Ma-Ma henchmen. As the person I saw this movie with pointed out with great appreciation, this movie really does nothing but violence — little character development or peripheral plot. It’s just one long battle sequence as Dredd and Anderson fight their way up to Ma-Ma. And as I said last week about Resident Evil: Retribution it can be fun when a movie is this single-minded about action. Something about the stripped down nature of the characters and plot really works here. Even though there is almost nothing to Dredd as a character, I found myself really liking him and enjoying the bare-bones-but-just-enough working relationship between him and Anderson.
Dredd 3D isn’t like The Dark Knight Rises or event The Avengers, it isn’t a saga and it isn’t trying to do anything, and I think that’s to the good. The movie is a big loud visual display that just wants you to sit back and enjoy the view. B
Rated R for strong bloody violence, language, drug use and some sexual content. Directed by Pete Travis with a screenplay by Alex Garland and characters by Carlos Ezquerra and John Wagner, Dredd 3D is an hour and 35 minutes long and is distributed by Lionsgate.