Going For It:
- Not the Sylvester Stallone/Rob Schneider vehicle
- Good balance between one-liners and violence
- Decent writing
- Couple 'splosions
- 3D because it was actually originally intended for 3D; not some crappy post-conversion
- Managed to explain away the gorgeous slow-motion sequences by way of a street drug called "Slo Mo"
The Case Against:
- For being a violent, jokey romp of a movie... really rather joyless
- The bad guy was nearly completely generic and bland
- Despite over-the-top source material and an R-rating, it did not get ultraviolent enough
- Suffering for lack of nudity (see R-rating comment above)
Dredd 3D is based, like the Stallone disaster, on a British comic about a cop in a dystopian future America in which overcrowding forces the police to act as judge, jury, and executioner with no real due process. This backdrop, combined with an R-rating, really should have meant consistent over-the-top violence in glorious 3D.
The biggest problem with this movie was that it suffered from something of an identity crisis. It was almost as if it were purposefully toned down to try to get a PG-13 and appeal to more people. There were moments where, in slow-motion, body parts rippled and exploded from bullet wounds and droplets of blood flew through the third dimension straight into the audience's popcorn-burdened laps. And then there were the wasted opportunities; the moments where limbs would explode but wouldn't really be shown off, or the moments where sex was shown in the most abstract and oblique ways with nary a nipple or buttock.
The movie really had only one option: fully embrace, even bear hug, the source material and the camp factor. They should have reveled in the notion that they didn't have to do a whole lot of explaining: future cop, has to shoot stuff for his job, too many people, life worth less...we get it! To have performed its shootout through the mega-slums with the same sort of zest or zeal of a Machete or a Planet Terror, it would have punched its own golden ticket into the hearts of countless viewers (of course it would have put off just as many people... but better to be loved and loathed than completely forgotten). Instead, the movie was nearly as muted, dingy, and tepid as its color palette.
Another big waste was with the setting. The idea, and this really isn't a spoiler, is that Dredd has to fight his way up the levels of a mega-slum the size of Wilmington (yes, really). In setting things up, the movie shows off a handful of colorful gangs (this reviewer guesses they are from the comic) that controlled the different sections of the building (the slum is all one massive building). Apart from a montage, however, they don't show off the other gangs. This could have been a vertical The Warriors... but no. The reason for this, is that they don't exist anymore... they were all wiped out by the Mama Gang.
Yes, the bad guys are the Mama Gang. Yes, the leader of the gang is named Mama. Yes, the word Mama sounds so juvenile that this reviewer cringed every time he heard it uttered. No, Mama was not cool. You would think with a name like that, she would either be some absurdly obese woman barking orders while spitting up chunks of fried chicken, or at least an actress in heavy prosthesis to make her look ancient. Instead what we get is Lena Headey, nonchalantly limping through scene after scene. She is supposed to be maniacal and bad-ass, but the delivery was flaccid and she didn't have a catch phrase or M.O. for hurting people that set her apart from anything whatsoever. There were several extras with more pop that were more memorable than the main villain; that's never a good sign.
That all being said, the movie is not by any stretch of the imagination a bad movie. It was entertaining, if a tad too long. It was fun, and not entirely forgettable. There are some very good sequences and visuals that you will not see in any other movie. Karl Urban, the titular Dredd, pulls off a very admirable performance that had to be done through a silly-looking helmet while still looking and acting tough. This reviewer enjoyed the movie. It was pretty good, it was just not quite there...