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Dread of "Dredd" Isn't Necessary. A Strong Stomach Might Help Though

For purposes of space and timing, we're putting my review of "Dredd 3D" on line in the Gusto Blog today. Like so:

Two and a half stars.

Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey and Wood Harris in Pete Travis' new cinematic reboot of the British comic strip after Sylvester Stallone's 1995 version of it ran afoul of the comic strip's creators.

By Jeff Simon


"It's sink or swim" the Chief Judge tells laconic Judge Dredd about his newbie female partner in "Dredd 3D." "Chuck her into the deep end." Says Judge Dredd to the chief judge with the absurdly robotic delivery that actor Karl Urban uses throughout the movie "It's all the deep end."
Think Ah-nuld, sans Austrian music in "The Terminator" for Urban's delivery. Or maybe even Clayton Moore in "The Lone Ranger."

The deep end, according to British comic strip co-creator John Wagner, is where the Sylvester Stallone version of his creation should have been pitched in 1995. As the original strip's writer (Carlos Ezquierra was the artist), Wagner has given this cinematic reboot his blessing.

For the comix community, then, "Dredd" is a big deal. For the rest of the world's action matinee lovers? Not so much. It's mostly the dumb, if elaborate, action movie place where fun and sadism overlap. Sometimes, fun carries the day in "Dredd 3D." Sometimes, the movie's butcher-shop worldview and its sadism may be a bit much for ordinary tastes. Karl Urban plays Judge Dredd. (Somehow "play" doesn't seem the appropriate word but let it pass.) Olivia Thirlby plays the psychic rookie who wants to be admitted to the ranks of Judges in this dystopic future world where 800,000,000 people live in a single mammoth city. Because crime fighting in such congestion is nothing if not an uphill prospect, judges carry all-purpose guns and are authorized to dispense justice (i.e. murder miscreants) on the street any time they jolly well choose.

The bad guys here are led by Lena Headey as a gangster with a scar on her cheek that, so help me, resembles a Nazi Swastika. Some sort of record for un-prettification may have been set there but then Charlize Theron, no doubt, would make sure we all remembered "Monster" if it became a contest. In order to kill the two judges on her case, she's capable of machine gunning into bloody salad an entire floor of innocent bystanders.

In the plot, the two judges are charged with bringing one particular bad guy (Wood Harris) to justice. Think of Westerns where Jimmy Stewart or Jeff Chandler has to bring the renegade Apache back to the fort through hostile territory.

The city, says one turncoat Judge, is just one big meat grinder. People enter at one end. Meat comes out the other. "All we do" he says "is turn the handle."

There are, of course, cynics who would say that's not a bad description of how certain films are made too. Director Pete Travis did a vigorous job of turning the handle. Some of the action is pretty good.

I saw the film in good old-fashioned 2-D. In 3-D, no doubt, the splat of skinned bodies hitting the ground from a project's 75th floor would be much more impressive. So too would all those things that go boom in your face.

Contrary, though, to the film's script, it's all "the shallow end."

Is it ever.



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