Don’t judge ‘Dredd 3D’ based on ’95 flick

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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 thompsg@phillynews.com. Read his blog at philly.com/KeepItReel.

REVIEW | 

Dredd 3D

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


Dredd 3D

Directed by Pete Travis. With Langley Kirkwood, Deobia Oparei, Rakie Ayola, Kevon Kane, Domhnall Gleeson, Jason Cope, Karl Urban, Joe Vaz, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey. Distributed by Lionsgate Films.

Running time: 1 hours, 36 minutes.

Parent's guide: R (for strong bloody violence, language, drug use and some sexual content).

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