IN CASE YOU FORGET how to spell "Dredd," the new version comes with the helpful addendum "3D."
"Dredd 3D" also comes with slow-motion three-dimensional footage of a future-world crack-smoker getting his jaw shot off in a leisurely shower of spouting blood.
In the future, crack is a downer, and makes everything unfold in slow motion, and by everything we mean armored cops bursting through your apartment door and assassinating you for the crime of drug possession and/or trafficking. (In the future, drugs are still a problem. Prison overcrowding, not so much.)
Hey, who does this cop think he is - judge, jury and executioner?
Yes, that's the idea. "Dredd 3D" takes from the original comic strip the idea of a near-future dystopia where a post-nuked, lawless Mega-City is patrolled by law-enforcement "judges" who, if they witness a crime, are permitted to exterminate the criminals.
The title character (Karl Urban, under a helmet that reveals only his scowling mouth) is a judge legendary for this commitment to the job.
In this new 3-D extravaganza, better and truer to the strip than the dull '95 Sylvester Stallone film, Dredd is paired with a rookie (Olivia Thirlby) who lacks the mettle to be an effective judge, but has mind-reading powers that make her an asset on the street.
Together they find themselves locked in an apartment tower controlled by a sadistic drug lord (Lena Headey) who turns the tables on the heavily armed Dredd, offering a dead-cop bounty to the building's heavily armed residents.
The movie bears a suspicious resemblance to the Indonesian hit "The Raid: Redemption," but trades that movie's sweaty, muscular martial-arts brio for a RoboCop-ish futurism and very slick F/X (the 3-D is very good).
It also invokes that grimness of the original strip, which arose in Margaret Thatcher's England from artists whose stories were inspired by the urban decay/cultural upheaval of the 1970s. Dredd was a satiric, sci-fi spin on the impulse that produced the "Dirty Harry" and "Death Wish" movies. ("Dredd 3D," is also a riff on the "The Enforcer," which paired Dirty Harry Callahan with a female affirmative-action hire.)
Things have changed, of course, since Charles Bronson meted out justice with his sock full of quarters. The Mega-Cities "Dredd" predicted never materialized. The streets have not been taken over by ragged masses of beggars and armed gangs. They've been gentrified, taken over by dudes in flip-flops drinking $10 lattes, tweeting at coffee shops.
Where is Judge Dredd when you really need him?
Contact movie critic Gary Thompson at 215-854-5992 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at philly.com/KeepItReel.
DIRECTED BY PETE TRAVIS. WITH KARL URBAN, OLIVIA THIRLBY, LENA HEADEY, WOOD HARRIS. DISTRIBUTED BY LIONSGATE.
RUNNING TIME: 95 MINUTES
PARENT'S GUIDE: R (VIOLENCE)
PLAYING AT: AREA THEATERS