The drug of choice in “Dredd” is a nifty little work of fiction called SLOW-MO—a hypnotically gold substance sucked in through an inhaler, altering your reality drastically with the first hit making time feel like it is moving at a fraction of a second.
Showered in gorgeous visuals, the trippy vibe of this drug allows for some innovative aesthetics in slow-motion photography. The big moment comes when a character is given the drug and pushed from a building, making a 20 second fall to their death feel like it is lasting for hours. I can’t imagine something more terrifying to think about, yet beautiful to watch.
“Dredd,” shot in 3D and effectively so, is a slam-bang joyride with a grim canvas—a darkness interrupted by vibrantly violent bursts of red. Blood is shed endlessly and carelessly in “Dredd,” a remake of the 1995 Sylvester Stallone film that better captures the apocalyptic vision of the original comic source, and the violence is something both appallingly real and fantastically surreal.
As a result, the dynamism of “Dredd” is unparalleled for a movie this furious, raw, and macabre. Its violence is gratuitous yet never feels so. Its pace is a 50-pound brick to the pedal that is never removed. Its style is new, like something straight from a comic book yet still remarkably cinematic. In short, “Dredd” is nasty, well-made fun.
In a future where police perform the duties of judge, jury, and executioner, Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) embarks on a typical day while training a newbie officer named Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), only to become trapped in the lockdown of a drug lord’s skyscraper community—a multi-storied action sequence that is essentially America’s first remake of “The Raid: Redemption,” the Indonesian action film that came out this year.
The movie is a constant barrage of action to the brain, yet all of it is composed well and executed effectively. For junkies of the genre, I would imagine the film would fail to disappoint, and I suspect the faithful following of the original comics will welcome this new vision with open arms. Its themes are dark and its humor is deadpan, especially in Judge Dredd’s complete lack of care for human life. A death may be shocking to us. For him, it’s just another day on the job.
“Dredd” is easily accessible though just as easily forgettable. I can remember having quite the enjoyable time while watching this inventive story unfold, yet aside from those special moments of visual wonder, I am at a loss to describe in much detail anything else I witnessed. It’s probably just because I left my brain at the door. But for a film like this, that’s where it ultimately belongs.
Greg Vellante is a film critic for The Eagle Tribune.