Monday, October 8, 2012

Film Review: Dredd 3D (2012)

Karl Urban stars as The Great Gazoo Judge Dredd
If you've seen Robocop and The Raid you've seen Dredd 3D. The setting is a dystopian future with a "megacity" that's decrepit, overpopulated, and overrun with ruthless criminals. Judges are heavily armed, suited like a combination medieval knight and NFL player, and authorized to act as judge, jury and executioner. The plot has Dredd, the best of the judges, partnered with a female rookie named Anderson who has psychic powers. They answer a call about a killing in Peachtrees Tower, a 200-storey apartment block controlled by a drug lord named Ma Ma. Dredd and Anderson become trapped in the tower and have to shoot it out with Ma Ma's numerous minions.

Dredd is what results when the Hollywood imagination factory goes on strike. It's actually jaw-dropping how derivative and generic this film is. Judge Dredd is Robocop with less wit, and the story is virtually a carbon copy of The Raid. The action? There's a lot of creeping around concrete corridors and jumping out to kill baddies. The baddies, as is usual in the lamer action films, make things easy by obligingly standing out in the open and otherwise making themselves easy targets. The only thing that distinguishes Dredd from its peers is its bloodiness. The screen is awash in fake blood, not to mention flying bits of bone and flesh. The only other wrinkle in the film is Anderson's ability to read minds. This comes in handy from time to time, but it's an add-on that doesn't bring very much to the party.

The actors are as generic as the plot. Karl Urban as Dredd only gets to act with his chin thanks to a Great Gazoo helmet that almost completely obscures his face, and Olivia Thirlby as Anderson appears to have been kept tranquilized throughout the shooting of the film. And how about poor Wood Harris? He played drug kingpin Avon Barksdale in The Wire, and now he gets to play a subordinate to a drug kingpin. Never let it be said that roles are limited for black actors in Hollywood: they get to play a wide variety of roles within the illegal narcotics industry. Speaking of kingpins, Ma Ma is a terrible villainess. She looks and acts like a tired Denny's waitress who's stuck working the all-night shift. Scooby Doo has faced more convincing villains than Ma Ma.

If you have to watch this one at least wait until it's out on DVD; that way you wont have to sit through another example of why 3D sucks.


Gaz said...

Oh dear, oh dear. You didn't like the movie fine, but if you are putting yourself up there as a critic for heaven's sake get you facts straight.

Just for the record, Dredd is not a Hollywood movie. You might want to correct that.

Secondly, now how can Dredd be derivative of Robocop when it is well-known (and obvious) that the latter was heavily based on Dredd the comic character (who has been around since 1977). This connection is even acknowledged in the Dredd film with an intentionally copycat line I'm sure you missed and just wrote off as cheesy.

As for the Raid comparison, Dredd finished filming before the Raid, but was released after. So, describing Dredd as a carbon copy doesn't really hold weight now does it?

Lastly, somewhat subjective, but are you really criticising the film for casting Wood Harris as a gang member? So, either there are no black gang members in real life and/or all gang members on film should be portrayed by white actors? Or maybe just by less talented black actors? What is the point you are making here? Like all actors, I'm sure Harris would like to be offered a wider array of challenging roles in his career but criticing Dredd for offering him this part in a (soon to be) indie cult classic is grossly unfair. You seem to have missed that the Chief Judge was portrayed by a black woman and the head gang leader by a white woman. What would have been 'better' casting exactly?

On the very few words where you actually critique the film itself you are welcome to you opinion, but I disagree with those too.

Cary Watson said...


Well, it's clear I'm not going to change your mind, and you scored some hits with your critique, but I have a few things to say in my defense. Robocop was undoubtedly inspired by Dredd, and Dredd couldn't have lifted The Raid's script, but the fact remains that if you've seen those two movies you've seen Dredd. The name's different and the furniture's been moved around, but the experience is very, very similar. As for Wood Harris, it just seems like the casting director could have thought outside the box. I've no problem with black gang members, but why cast an actor whose claim to fame is playing a gang member? As for Dredd's boss being black, the black superior officer is a tired trope of cop movies and TV shows going back to the '70s. You're right about this not being a Hollywood-made film. My bad. I will say that it has that Made In America for a global market feel that I confused with being the real thing.