Note: I'm assigning this a "2 out of 4" but in terms of this movie it really doesn't matter.
“Dredd” (or “Dredd 3D” if you want to waist three extra bucks) is as basic and straight forward a futuristic action flick as they come. In fact it’s a little astounding just how low director Pete Travis and screenwriter Alex Garland aim. And yet the movie takes itself so serious and to its credit, the story (what very little there is) stays on track. Though, “Dredd”—based on a 1995 Sylvester Stallone film--only has one thing working for it: a distinctive, visual style. Yes, it’s mostly constructed of CGI but the film has more artistic look (every scene sort of looks like a digitalized painting), as opposed to a sleek polished one you usually see in most big budget films like these.
As far as story goes, there’s not much to report. It takes place in a futuristic, overpopulated, dystopia, in one giant city called Mega Block 1. The city contains three kinds of people: nasty, dirty, drug dealers--who get their fix from a new drug that gives you the sensation of slow motion--lead by a vicious drug king pin known as Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), impoverished civilians and The Justice Department. It’s here we meet Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) a sort of super judge that acts as judge, jury and executioner. “Dredd” is in some ways similar to “The Raid: Redemption.” The major action takes place in massive tower, living complex. Dredd and his rookie side kick Kay (Wood Harris) have to battle their way through numerous thugs to defeat Ma-Ma at the top. And, well that’s it.
Dredd resembles Robo Cop. He wears a heavy suit of leather armor, a helmet that conceals the top half of his face and he has an endless number of action movie one liners delivered in a very emotionless tone of voice. He is portrayed by Karl Urban (“Lord of The Rings”) but he could be portrayed by anyone else. This is a role that requires no acting what so ever. Travis could have put a Chimpanzee in that suit of armor and there would be no difference. (Well, I guess Dredd would make inaudible Chimpanzee noises instead of talking. Which actually wouldn’t be a problem, seeing as dialogue is not this movie’s concern either). There’s no character development in “Dredd,” unless you count brief monologs the characters give about themselves or someone else, that only include the bare essentials.
The acting is wooden for the most part, and while the action scenes are all well and good—it helps that the movie is rated R. If it was PG-13 I think I would come down harder on it— they don’t really make much of an impression. The action scenes in “The Raid” had impact and by the time all of its mayhem came to an end you came out of the theater just as beaten and bruised as the characters in the movie. The action in “Dredd” is almost too stylized and impersonal.
If I felt motivated enough, I’m sure I could tear this movie a new one but it really isn’t worth the energy. The film tries for so little; the “narrative” is so constricted and unpretentious that I can’t totally abhor it.