There is no reason to dread ‘Dredd,’ film far surpasses Stallone version

Karl Urban takes no prisoners in 'Dredd'
Karl Urban takes no prisoners in ‘Dredd’

“Is it better than the original” is a question that will be asked about every movie remake.  In the case of the remake of Judge Dredd, starring Sylvester Stallone and Diane Lane, the answer is: “Hell yes!”

Under the capable direction of Pete Travis (Vantage Point and Endgame), Dredd 3d takes the comic book character to new heights.  Portrayed by Karl Urban (“Dr. McCoy” in 2009’s Star Trek), this is the “Judge Dredd” that begged to be brought to the big screen.

Set in a post-apocalyptic North America, Dredd is the story of “Mega-City One”, a megalopolis that stretches from what was Boston to what was Washington, D.C. and is home to 800 million people. It is surrounded by high, sturdy walls that separate it from vast wastelands, and is a place that sees tens of thousands of crimes daily.  It is home to many large buildings that rise into the sky housing both criminals and the people who fear them, side by side.

Lena Headey stars as Ma-Ma in 'Dredd 3D'
Lena Headey stars as Ma-Ma in ‘Dredd 3D’

Administering justice as law enforcement, prosecutor, judge, jury and – if need be – executioner, Mega-City One is patrolled by the judges who ride out daily from the Hall of Justice.  One such judge is “Judge Dredd,” and on this day he has an additional task.  He is to perform an assessment on a new graduate of the academy where judges are trained.  “Anderson” (Olivia Thrilby) didn’t pass the course, but she’s being given a chance to be a judge because she is a mutant with strong psychic abilities.  This one day will be make or break for her.

There is a new drug making the rounds in Mega-City One.  It’s called “slo-mo,” and it makes the user feel as though time is passing at 1% of its normal speed.  To better illustrate its effects, consider this.

“Madeline Madrigal”, better known as “Ma Ma” (Headey), is the leader of the gang that produces and sells slo-mo. She also rules the 200 story building where it is made with an iron fist. When three bodies are thrown from the top of the building to the sidewalk below, Judge Dredd and his rookie judge are dispatched to investigate.  Soon they are inside and arresting “Kay” (Wood Harris), one of Ma Ma’s key people.  She can’t afford to let them get out and take him in for questioning, so she orders the building sealed and then orders the residents to kill the two judges.

Olivia Thirlby stars as Anderson in 'Dredd 3D'
Olivia Thirlby stars as Anderson in ‘Dredd 3D’

So that leaves cops trapped inside a building filled with bad guys and the only way to survive is to take out their leadership. Sound familiar?  It should.  The excellent Indonesian film The Raid: Redemption released earlier this year features this same device (no doubt this is purely coincidental).

Dredd 3D features plenty of action, lots of thugs getting their just desserts, a stoic, hoarse, direct hero who says what he means, means what he says, and who won’t hesitate to dispense justice to anyone who he feels has violated the law.  Clearly Urban was a fan of the comic before taking the role and it shows in his performance.

Thirlby is fine as the new judge who learns that handing out justice means is not as easy as it looks, especially when you encounter those whose lives you’ve altered just by doing your job.  The 3D visuals may be worth the extra cost of admission to those who like that sort of thing, but the images are perfectly enjoyable when seen on a “normal” screen.  I doubt anyone will ‘judge’ Dredd 3D to be anything but a vast improvement on the Stallone version.

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