'Dredd' Review: Action-Packed but Empty of Everything Else

Yes, folks. Dredd keeps his helmet on in this one.

That’s the biggest news to come out of "Dredd 3D," which arrives in theaters 17 years after Sylvester Stallone’s "Judge Dredd" floundered at the box office.

In the new adaptation of the comic, Karl Urban stars as the eponymous character in a simple story that will likely remind viewers of the superior "The Raid: Redemption," which hit theaters earlier this year.

Alex Garland, who previously wrote "Sunshine" (2007) and "Never Let Me Go" (2010), wrote the screenplay for the film that focuses on the well-liked character. The story focuses on Dredd, a futuristic police officer who is given the responsibility of being a judge, jury and executioner for the criminals he encounters. In this world, this Judge - along with many others - is wanted by many of the thugs who roam the street working illegally to get ahead.

But in a city where crime is high and violence is rampant, some of the judges too easily fall prey to replacing their ethical values with a cynicism that lets them think working with the criminals is better than fighting against them.

Not Dredd. Dredd fights for the people. Even when other judges fold around him, he stands up for justice.

The film's plot focuses on Dredd’s work with a rookie named Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) to take down a drug empire led by the psycopath named Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). Ma-Ma is distributing a drug known as Slo-Mo, which makes its users believe that events are happening much, much more slower than they are actually occurring.

When Dredd and Anderson capture one of her lieutenants, they are locked inside an apartment building by Ma-Ma with little hope of escape. The duo must then face off against a building’s worth of criminals who want the officers dead after Ma-Ma rallies these thugs to her side. 

If the plot sounds familiar, it’s likely because "The Raid" told it first. Like "Dredd," that film focused on several individuals who were imprisoned inside a large building and forced to fight their way out. Of course, "The Raid" featured more on hand to hand fighting while "Dredd" often relies on gun violence to show its lead characters battling their enemies.

Ultimately, the action is fun and sometimes exciting, but the film’s reliance on it at the expense of character development and surprises mutes its effect. The acting is reasonably good, but there’s not much one can do with a stoic character like Dredd, and Urban’s performance is ultimately underwhelming.

As a fan of "Game of Thrones" though, it was exciting to watch Headey - who plays the show's unforgettable Cersei Lanister - play a role in which her character must ultimately face the consequences of her decisions.

For die-hard action fans, "Dredd" might be a film worth pursuing, but the whole ordeal felt underwhelming. From the start, we know how the story is going to end, few important characters are ever put in real danger and the anti-climactic ending left me with more questions than one would want.


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