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Like a big-screen game, focus of ‘Dredd 3D’ is body count

This news story was published on September 21, 2012.
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By Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune –

The time-killing carnage in “Dredd 3D” can be assessed all sorts of ways. One depends on how much M-rated gaming you do as a matter of course.

If the answer is some, or a lot, you’ll likely find “Dredd 3D” up your viscera-strewn alley, because the film isn’t merely influenced by a genre of first-person, shoot/ stab/ eviscerate/ these/ anonymous/ enemies scenarios. It re-creates them, slavishly, as did the recent “The Raid: Redemption,” so that calling “Dredd 3D” a movie is sort of a lie. It’s a premise, and there are levels to reach, and always there’s another grimy hallway to stalk, and then you turn right or left, and then kill some more.

Another way of assessing “Dredd 3D” is inevitably political. If you have few or no issues with the gun laws in this country, or the attendant murder statistics, then you’re in pretty good shape for target-audience consideration. (Rarely has the phrase “target audience” been more appropriate.) On the other hand, if you’ve spent countless thousands of hours watching and often thrilling to death on screen, but find yourself resistant to the unceasing cruelty and numbing body count in a film such as “Dredd 3D,” then … well, then you probably already sensed “Dredd 3D” isn’t for you. It’s for your endlessly gaming teenager. Or younger, if you’re really going to allow a preteen to see it.

“Dredd 3D” comes from a 1970s graphic novel “2000 AD,” and its depiction of a lawless urban jungle where the cops are unfeeling, metal-clad Dirty Harry clones (the Clint Eastwood character’s an acknowledged inspiration) and due process is a bullet, as John Wayne said in “The Green Berets.” Sylvester Stallone starred in a flop 1995 film version, titled “Judge Dredd.” Karl Urban, so droll as “Bones” McCoy in the most recent “Star Trek” movie, takes over the role of Dredd in the remake directed by Pete Travis.

Most of the picture takes place inside a 200-story housing structure that looks like a bad-seed version of a Hyatt. It’s one vermin-infested sliver of the walled Mega City, containing 800 million citizens. The building known as Peach Tree is run by a gangland ruler played by Lena Headey, who controls the flow of the latest addictive substance known as Slo-Mo. This is a cracklike inhalant that makes time (and dying, usually) pass verrrrrrry slowly. Dredd and his psychic protege (Olivia Thirlby) square off against the bad people, of which there are always more coming around the next turn in the next hallway on the next level.

Headey and Thirlby lend the film some semblance of performance presence. Urban himself is just a voice knocking around inside all that metal. My favorite thing from the ‘95 Stallone version, the Versace-designed Dredd costume complete with codpiece and faaaabulous bling, has been replaced by a slab of granite.

My favorite bit in the remake is the line of dialogue referring to Headey’s antagonist. “Her trademark … is violence,” someone says, as if he almost said something else, such as “Her trademark … is her taste in sunglasses. And her cheery little laugh.”



1 1/2 stars

MPAA rating: R (for strong bloody violence, language, drug use and some sexual content)

Running time: 1:38

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