Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Diabolically Delightful

Dredd 3D       Final Cut Score: 93%

It takes something pretty radical to eradicate the residue of refuge that remained after Sly Stallone's 1995 run at the Judge Dredd comic book series. As the character's creator, John Wagner put it to Empire Magazine: "Judge Dredd wasn't really Judge Dredd." I'm betting the house Mr. Wagner won't have the same reaction to the 2012 reboot, Dredd 3D, a shockingly entertaining and sensationally violent grand slam — a diabolical delight.

Donning the iconic helmet this go around is Karl Urban ("Bones" of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek fame) and the Kiwi kills it. Displaying a single relentless gear, Urban possesses the physicality to pull off the role, demolishing anything that dare stand in his suited-up-for-war way.

And war it is as he and rookie partner/psychic Anderson (Olivia Thirlby of Juno in a star-making turn) roll-up on Peach Trees, a 200-story concrete den for drug activity smack dab in the heart of Mega-City One, the 800-million resident megalopolis that essentially encompasses the entirety of the East Coast.

The highrise housing complex controlled from the top down by Ma-Ma (Lena Headley of 300), a sadistic drug lord manufacturing the new high/low of choice, Slo-Mo. Smoked crack-style, the narcotic allows the dopehead to experience life at 1% the normal rate and provide moviegoers a nanosecond-by-nanosecond kaleidoscopic view of the brutal violence in glorious 3D.

Director Pete Travis (Vantage Point) and screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later) unleash an onslaught of savagery: heads burn, skulls get smashed, thugs are skinned alive; it's adults-only entertainment, child protective services should be stationed outside theaters to cart off kids whose parents buy them a ticket to see the spectacle.

Judge Dredd going floor-by-floor, scorching every last bit of earth along his ascension, has a nearly identical feel to The Raid: Redemption, the insanely off the chain Indonesian gem from earlier this year. The plot and setting are eerily similar, the soundtrack equally so; it's as if the two films shared on-the-set secrets with one another. What I can say for certain: The two projects are able to co-exist on the same ferociously feral plane without either suffering from the other's existence.

Overflowing with an superabundance of testosterone, Dredd 3D is a viscerally barbaric thrill ride of grotesque-level bloodshed — a cinematic incendiary device. Here's to the rebirth of a franchise left for dead, re-emerging with a hellacious fury that wipes clean the sins of the past — and then some.

Dredd's raid and redemption indeed.