'Dredd 3D' Review By Bryan Yentz

... While DREDD wasn't the perfect idea of mindlessly exploitive mayhem I would have hoped for, it's nonetheless entertaining in a very primal way...
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Directing
  • Visuals
Remember the Sylvester Stallone vehicle JUDGE DREDD from the nineties? No? Well, don't worry. I don't think many do. As a refresher, it was bad. Like, so bad it's good. . . But still, not good. . . Make sense? It was a headed by an insipid story, boring bits of action and off-screen violence, and even had Rob Schneider. . . Yeah, Rob Schneider as an obnoxious foil to DREDD who "hilariously" commented on everything that happened in the film (surprised?). It was a disaster. Understandably, public interest for DREDD was crushed by this cinematic abortion (if it was even high to begin with) and landmarked itself as a comic-to-movie folly akin to TANK GIRL. After many a year, however, director Pete Travis has dusted off the judge, jury and executioner and prepped him for another go. And you know what? This time, it actually comes together. For the most part. . .

Upon the discovery of three, skinned bodies splattered across the neo-pavement of Mega-City's "Peach Tree" complex, DREDD and his rookie, ANDERSON, learn of a new drug deemed, "Slow-Mo" which (as it sounds) slows the user's perception of reality (really, it's just an excuse for some truly kickass looking sequences--that's it). And who's to blame for these murders and the new drug's distribution? A merciless gang leader known as "Mama". To quarantine the recent threat of Judge DREDD and his protégé, Mama closes her building off to the outside world and forces DREDD to fight his way up to her, floor by floor.

In all honesty, DREDD 3D is like a futuristic version of THE RAID: REDEMPTION. Both involve a drug lord, both involve a task force, both involve our protagonists moving from floor-to-floor of a high-rise, and hell, they both even have a tension-filled moment in which the heroes hide in a random room while villainous roustabouts walk on by. The comparisons are numerous (and strange considering they were both in production at nearly the same times) and impossible to overlook, but DREDD nonetheless makes it work. While THE RAID: REDEMPTION is a far superior film, but DREDD delivers its formula with a wreckless, balls-to-the-wall fervor, so much in fact, that it's easy to forgive its copycat similarities because of how honestly energetic the entire experience is. They weren't trying to create a Mona Lisa-style movie, the filmmakers were trying to make a simple, mindlessly brutal endeavor to coincide with the viciousness of the comic-book character himself. And really, when compared to the 90's version, this adaption is a masterpiece.

Where DREDD succeeds is, of course, its violence (didn't see that coming, eh?). Throughout the course of the quickly-paced ninety minutes of arterial spray, I think I mustered at least five deep man-chuckles. You know the kind, where something hilariously gruesome occurs on-screen, like, say, our hero crushing a villain's windpipe with a single blow or a "High EX" round decapitating a sorry sap in an explosion of spark and grue. I'd say about 75% of the carnage herein works, the other 25% is just lazy. While one shoot-out might be a beautiful display of visual prowess and slow-motion blood-spilling, the next might be an incredibly by-the-numbers bullet ballet in which NOTHING memorable actually happens. And then the next bit of slow-motion eye candy adorns the screen and one forgets that the last bit of gunplay was incredibly flaccid. If not for a final, jaw-droppingly gorgeous death scene, even the finale would have felt limp.

And this entire adaption would have been for naught had its lead, DREDD his'self, been miscast. Thankfully, that's not at all the case here. While I had my doubts, Karl Urban is f*cking fantastic as the man behind the helmet. His permanent scowl is utterly complimentary to the manuscript version and his gravel-throated parlance is humorously gritty. While many of his lines are purposefully comical in a deadpan way, I couldn't help but giggle every time he opened his mouth and allow a handful of words to squeeze between his clenched teeth. DREDD is such a fun character to watch and listen to, that I find it fantastic that Travis and co. were in on the joke. They weren't trying to create the next ostentatious Batman of the future with an outrageously ludicrous growl; they were trying to present a character true to his campy yet savage origins. From the comical way he states, "Mama. . . JUDGEMENT TIME." to the surprisingly abrupt way he throws a man's flailing body from a high-rise, I was utterly enthralled with this vision of DREDD's world and Urban's depiction of such an antihero. Also, props to such an actor as Urban for being humble enough to refrain from showing his face throughout the entire picture. And on the topic of characterization, I also have to give mad kudos to Olivia Thirlby's, Anderson; the rookie following DREDD into the heart of darkness. While it would have been easy to establish her as a weak point--a female in constant need of salvation--writer Alex Garland (of 28 DAYS LATER fame) actually gives her a soul and purpose. Not once does she beckon DREDD for aid, but understands when she needs to buck-up, stand tall and put some psychopaths down. Even a bit of head-games began with the audience laughing at its corniness, but ended with everyone clapping for Anderson's bit of mind-f*cking.

While DREDD wasn't the perfect idea of mindlessly exploitive mayhem I would have hoped for, it's nonetheless entertaining in a very primal way. For the most part, DREDD delivers in a fantastically unpretentious way; it knows exactly the sort of film it is and never pretends to be anything more than an energetically gruesome expose of exquisitely shot violence. Sure, the action becomes occasionally blasé and some of the writing is embarrassingly bad at points--even beyond the "so-bad-it's-good" level " (just wait for the, "WAIT!" line), but DREDD still delivers on what it set out to do. It's mindless. It's grisly. It's evocatively shot. It's an honest realization of a classic character. DREDD may not be as polished as it should have been, but I'm already stoked for a possible sequel. To sum up my critique, I'll quote one of DREDD's final, most concise lines of the film. . .

Give me a second while I clear my throat and prepare for a hoarse mimicking of his voice. . .

"YEAH. . ."

Yup. Think that sums everything up.

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Comments (40)

  1. Bryan Yentz


    Mama was a fun antagonist and I enjoyed her attitude quite a bit. I liked that she hid this punctual side amidst a brutal one. That she could control her army of thugs with organization and smarts, but also, have people mercilessly skinned and tortured at the drop of a hat. I didn't think she was amazing, but I did dig the character as it was for more interesting witnessing a chick act so villainous and Lena definitely seemed to love playing the role too.

    Thanks for reading, man!

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  2. Replicant

    Nice review, though you didn't mention anything about Lina Headey as Mama, what did you think? I really thought she was a total badass, one of the coolest villains I've seen a while.

    Definitely my favorite underrated film of 2012.

    2 years agoby @felipe-11Flag

  3. Bryan Yentz


    COMPLETELY agree, man. Yeah, I felt it necessary to go back and lift the score as I really did dig this flick and feel--like you said--to be VERY underrated. I was hoping they would be able to do a sequel as the DVD sales skyrocketed profit for Lionsgate, but sadly, it wasn't enough. And yeah, Urban was DAMN hilariously awesome. Loved his deadpan dialogue.

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  4. the Narrator

    I had fun revisiting this review, @bryanyentz, and I gave this film the same rating (funnily enough). Definitely an underrated film this past year, and I was deeply hoping for a sequel to improve on this films flaws and really blow us away. Urban deserves that chance, as his performance was f*cking ace.

    2 years agoby @narratorFlag

  5. Bryan Yentz


    Yeah, completely agree. That's actually why I pulled this review back up; so that I could give it a higher score. Sadly, while the DVD sales have been insanely high, any chance of a sequel is no longer happening.

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  6. Mr.K

    @bryanyentz Once again, another great review. Dredd 3D is really underrated and it deserves more recognition than what it got on theaters last year. The mindf*ck scene was definitely kick-ass.

    2 years agoby @mr-kFlag

  7. Bryan Yentz


    Well, I'm just saying that thus far you've proven yourself to be one by mean-spiritedly attacking anyone that doesn't agree with you--as well as going out of your way to criticize and personally assault every user so as to antagonize and incite anger That is, by definition, what a troll does.

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  8. Zak Lee Ferguson

    the whole schtick with the critics with this was the satire....hello which Newspaper reporter who reads the likes of the New York times knows about Dredd and its impoverished world and dystopian diplomacy. This film though lacked that sparse blunt edged wit i expected it was a furthered improvment on a adaptation and of a Comic Book series....perhaps with a possible sequel they could delve deeper into the source material more...now the world is established..Judge Death perhaps? Even let somebody else helm, Alex Garlend being my number one chice, i'm just surprised the reins went to Teavis whose job on this is superb but throughout it felt lacking...but still a solid film, fast, witty, violent and viscereal.

    2 years agoby @Zak-Lee-FergusonFlag

  9. Nicholaus XX

    @bryanyentz -- Which one did you like more; this, or "The Avengers"?

    Based on what you said, hopefully, this will be a guilty-pleasure.

    2 years agoby @XxNickTheFilmCriticXxFlag

  10. Bryan Yentz


    Haha, thanks, man!

    As for this one's hype, I don't think it near that of AVENGERS, especially considering everyone thought DREDD was going to be sheer awfulness. So, going into it expecting terrible, I think most people--including me--going into it with low expectations can come out of it quite pleased. I mean, it's pretty poorly done at points, but it's a mindlessly entertaining movie of the most gruesomely fun kind. Put it this way, while I and the guys in the audience were chuckling and some cheering, all of the girls--like my girlfriend--were just shaking their heads and sighing at the carnage (though she did concede to how beautiful the film looked at various points what with the slow-mo and all).

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  11. Nicholaus XX

    @bryanyentz -- I don't know what to think of this one. It looks terrible, but it's getting mostly positive feedback. But, I think this will turn out like "The Avengers". A movie with a lot of hype behind it that fails to deliver. Meh, who knows.

    Regardless, incredible review, man. Cinematic abortion. F*cking brilliant.

    2 years agoby @XxNickTheFilmCriticXxFlag

  12. Bryan Yentz


    Haha, and I think you forgot, The Hot Chick, too!

    And thanks, man--I think that copy/paste method worked quite well.

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  13. Bryan Yentz


    Yeah, I think it would be interesting casting and would be cool to give him a shot as the Dark Knight, especially considering many of Urban's roles are "under the helmet". He's got the gruff voice and the grizzled jawline to provide a good Batman... I'd be interested to see it; as long as it maintains its dark tone as Nolan's trilogy did.

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag


    @bryanyentz Of course man... hopefully copying and pasting the way I got it should work... if not, you know where to find me!

    What about The Animal or Deuce Bigalow... haha I couldn't even say that with a straight face!

    2 years agoby @mcleve02Flag

  15. the MovieGhost

    @bryanyentz Honestly... I would really enjoy it. Urban is one of the more underrated actors in Hollywood today, so for him to get something like Batman under his belt, so to say, would be great for him. What do you think?

    2 years agoby @the-movieghostFlag

  16. IlikePie202

    agree. it's fun but nothing special.

    2 years agoby @Ilikepie202Flag

  17. skywise

    @bryanyentz Its always a pleasure to read your reviews sir.

    2 years agoby @skywiseFlag

  18. Bryan Yentz


    Agreed! I even liked him in DOOM. . . He's just really good as an "every man" kind of hero. How do you think he'd be as the next Batman? With that gruff voice and everything? A few of us were wondering about that casting choice.

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  19. Bryan Yentz


    Haha, oh yeah, because we all know that Mr. Schneider can carry a deeply written role of passion and creativity. . . And not just that of a foil. . . ;)

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  20. Bryan Yentz


    Hahaha, thanks, buddy!

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  21. Bryan Yentz


    Hmm, that's really interesting. I guess, though, regardless of which came first, the studio reps apparently wanted to ride the success of The Raid as the trailer--which came out at the beginning of summer, even used the same theme of "going all the way up"; a setup/tagline that mainstream moviegoers wouldn't get; they wouldn't understand the relevance to The Raid. Even the "stowaway scene" was replicated near identically to The Raid. While DREDD might have had the idea first, it seemed as though they might have rewritten certain segments to parallel The Raid's success. Again, some of DREDD's sequences were so lazily scripted/written that I wouldn't have been surprised (kind of stunning too considering Garland is an experienced writer.

    But yeah, regardless of similarities, I still found that both performed their stories differently enough to where I could enjoy each as their own violent beast. Even still, thanks for the refresher on the controversy, I was unaware of some of those tidbits. Always dig your input, man!

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  22. Bryan Yentz


    That would actually be a really interesting casting choice... I'm up for it!

    2 years agoby @bryanyentzFlag

  23. the MovieGhost

    @bryanyentz While not as shocked as I said I'd be, your review was great. I've been an Urban fan since Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Riddick, so I'd love to see Urban as Dredd again.

    2 years agoby @the-movieghostFlag


    @bryanyentz And btw another well written review! I don't understand what your problem was with Rob Schneider! ;)
    (obviously that was a joke)

    2 years agoby @mcleve02Flag

  25. skywise

    @bryanyentz There has been such a controversy over the comparison to the Raid and many claims that Dredd ripped it off. But Dredd's screenplay was written in 2006/7 and leaked online in 2010. Principal photography on Dredd took place between November and December 2010. The Raid did not go into production until November 2010, and was filmed in March 2011. Until the Summer of 2010, Raid director Gareth Evans had been planning to make an entirely different film and put The Raid together over the next nine months.

    I wouldn't really go to far in to it but it looks like the Raid might have actually been a little rip of Dredd.

    Great review BTW.

    2 years agoby @skywiseFlag

  26. Bawnian©-Dexeus

    @dan1 Haha! No complaints from me

    2 years agoby @bawnian-dexeusFlag

  27. Dan

    @bryanyentz@bawnian-dexeus Brought up in your review, I wouldn't mind Urban playing Batman, actually. He should even use the same voice, it would be awesome.

    2 years agoby @dan1Flag

  28. Dan

    @bryanyentz I loved all the cheese haha

    2 years agoby @dan1Flag