Judge Dredd was one of the bigger flops of the 1990s, earning roughly one-third of its budget and signaling an end to Sylvester Stallone’s can’t-miss action hero career. It was also one of the many comic book adaptations that just never made the right transition to film. So why in the world is Dredd back? Presumably, so they could do this to it: Dredd 3-D is — brace yourself — one of the few great uses of the largely unnecessary 3-D technology, in addition to being a pretty noteworthy shoot ’em up. All in all, it’s good fun.
The story will seem awfully familiar to anyone who has seen The Raid: Redemption, the best action film this year by a mile, because they’re identical. The only difference is the weapons of choice. In The Raid, it’s the percussive Indonesian martial art Pencak Silat, while Dredd prefers good old fashioned American guns. Beyond that, it’s the story of cops working their way up the floors of an inner city flophouse to stop a dangerous drug cartel.
As the emotionless Dredd, Karl Urban (Star Trek) doesn’t have much of an opportunity to stand out. He grimaces well, though. Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) is a fairly inspired choice for the drug kingpin, however.
What makes Dredd 3-D truly unique, despite its obvious nature and carbon-copy premise, is the remarkable slow-motion 3-D cinematography of Anthony Dod Mantle, cinematographer of such throwaways as 28 Days Later … and Slumdog Millionaire. The effect is tied to an inhaled drug, not-so-coincidentally called Slo-Mo, that, as it happens, leaves you at a disadvantage in a gunfight. Director Pete Travis only employs the slow-motion effect about a half-dozen times, but moving at 4,000 frames per second when film at regular speed only requires 24 fps gives Dredd 3-D a unique signature that bolsters the story, serves this genre and stops you cold. COLIN BOYD