, Port Arthur, Texas

September 26, 2012

Second time’s the charm for Judge Dredd

Sean McBride
The Port Arthur News

— I can’t quite decide if the new comic book/action film, “Dredd 3D” is actually a solid piece of escapist entertainment, or if it just seems good when compared to Sylvester Stallone’s efforts to bring the character to life in his 1995 film, “Judge Dredd.” The answer is a little bit of both, but the new film is certainly better than expected. It should please both the fans of the British comic series as well as those just looking for some cinematic mayhem.

Karl Urban stars as Judge Dredd, the no-nonsense officer patrolling the streets of Mega City—the futuristic urban sprawl of America’s now-connected eastern cities. Not only is he a cop, but he’s also the judge, jury and executioner, frequently delivering the death penalty to the criminals he arrests.

The film’s story begins when Dredd and a novice partner (Olivia Thirlby) arrive at a high-rise slum to investigate a triple homicide. The building is controlled by a drug lord (Lena Headey) whose new product, Slow Mo, causes addicts to sense things at a fraction of normal speed. Rather than risk discovery, the drug lord orders the building to be locked down, trapping the judges inside against an army of killers waiting to attack.

The plot is very reminiscent of the Brazilian film, “The Raid: Redemption,” with the plot consisting of a never-ending gun battle as the heroes fight there way from one floor to the next, until they finally square off against the drug lord. The fight to get to this final confrontation is exciting stuff, but the final showdown is a pretty big let down. As much as I love Headey in “Game of Thrones,” her villainous performance here simply isn’t nasty enough to merit all the bullets.

On the other hand, I quite enjoyed Urban’s mono-toned performance of the title character. He spends the entire film behind his helmet, which means that we only ever see his mouth and chin. That severely limits his acting, but that’s okay in this film because Dredd is supposed to be something of a black-and-white character. Or I suppose, give the bloodshed involved, black-and-red. Either way, the performance seemed fitting for the film’s comic book tone.

The action was also rather enjoyable, with some interesting artistic flourishes. The use of the Slow Mo drug means that we get a lot of slow motion gunfights, but that just gives you time to sit back and enjoy the carnage. That might not appeal to general audiences, but it’s a cool trick for those of us who are real action cinema fans.

The bottom line is that “Dredd 3D” is a fast-paced and relentless action film with some nice effects and a storyline that will have audiences asking for more. Hopefully, if there is a sequel to this film, the producers will give Dredd a more worthy opponent to fight.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at