What to know about this movie up front:
1: It is not, I repeat NOT a sequel or in any way related to that fairly bad to awful Stallone movie that can really only be enjoyed if you're a kid or just need a movie to do shots with(seriously, take a shot every time he yells out "I am the law" or any variation.)
2: It is a low budget sci-fi(I refuse to acknowledge "syfy" as proper spelling) in the best ways. This means while yes it was done on the cheep, it exudes imaginative visuals, beautifully glorious violence, and a sense of scale that even the largest budgeted movies can't master.
3:Yes it was natively shot in 3D so it has an incredible sense of depth for cramped set pieces.
I'll say up front that I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Top to bottom. Sure there are some things you could nitpick, but taken against the greater whole this is one of the BEST comic movie adaptations out there. Set hundreds of years in the future, the world is in chaos. Hundreds of millions of people are living in the squalor of the Mega Cities. Enforcing the law are the Judges. They are judge, jury, and executioner all in one individual. Karl Urban plays our titular hero with a outstanding sense of strength, authority, and subtle humor that any fan of the 2000 A.D. comic series would demand. At his side is Olivia Thirlby as the psychic Judge rookie Anderson on her first day on the job. Olivia brings a sense of innocence to the proceedings that is a welcome respite to the desolate future this film takes place. Together they must take down a former prostitute turned master gang leader called Ma-Ma who has become the manufacturer and distributor of a lethal and addictive narcotic called Slo-Mo. This new drug of choice makes the user perceive time at one percent normal. You might argue that this was used as an excuse to get showy on a small budget, but it is striking imagery lends an odd sense of beauty to the scenes with viscus gore and violence.
Throughout, this movie plays like a futuristic re-imaging of Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo(one of my absolute favorite movies). You have two agents of the law, trapped in a confined space who must face the greater evil head on or die. They can't wait for help, they have to fight their way out. Set in a "Mega-Block" a 200 story super building that is home to thousands of people; like a giant series of housing projects built high into the sky. Ma-Ma has put a price on the heads of Dredd and Anderson and together they have to do everything they can to survive. It's this simple plot and premise that makes for some of the best action sequences as well as some truly striking 3D visuals. The story isn't over thought and like a GOOD action movie doesn't need to be clever to be effective.
There isn't a whole lot more of the story to review or potentially spoil. For what the filmmakers had to work with, the production design is fantastic. It is a fairly straight forward movie without much in the way of narrative surprises. That said, the striking visuals, clean story telling, and fantastic performances make this one worth watching and owning, that is of course if you have a strong stomach for beautifully shot near relentless violence. Definitely an adults only release, not in the least bit kid friendly. Due to its initial theatrical reception, the prospect of a sequel was as bleak as the future in this movie. Thankfully it has found an audience and a movement of fans is growing pushing for a second outing. If you want to do your part, join up on facebook here:
The Third Dimension
Natively shot in 3D; this is an absolutely gorgeous transfer for this blu-ray release. Detail is sharp and clear, little to no digital noise, and since it wasn't a film-to-digital transfer, there isn't any digital noise reduction or smoothing applied that I could see. Even in the cramped spaces with numerous close up shots of the actors' faces, there is always a fantastic sense of depth without the eye gouging effects of things popping out at you. Like any good 3D presentation it turns your TV set into a window looking in to a new world. The real highlight of this movie are the SLO-MO sequences. To achieve the level of clarity they needed, the filmmakers developed a new camera rig capable of shooting at 1000 frames per second. To the laymen your average film is shot and projected at 24 frames per second. The result here is beautiful, you feel like you could reach out and touch the movie. If you're not 3D inclined, the 2D presentation is on the same disc and equally spectacular, only not in 3D and therefor not nearly as fun!
The Extras Dimension
In addition to the 2D version mentioned above, the extras here are sadly fairly paltry. A smattering of behind the scenes featuretts offer some incite but little depth(pardon the pun) to this 3D movie. A commentary track would have been fantastic, considering when you watch the featuretts, you can see the cast and crew are just wanting to shout to the rafters about how they did certain scenes, how much work they put into it. You can tell this was a passion project for those involved. Maybe a doubledip will come along? Probably... but with the extras we want to see and hear? Probably not. Still though, you can get this one fairly cheep on Amazon and it is worth EVERY penny.
The End Result
Due in part to a lackluster marketing effort that even good reviews couldn't bolster, this movie came and went from theaters without even earning back half of it's production budget. But thankfully to outstanding word of mouth, this movie has sold and rented well on DVD and Blu-ray becoming an underground hit. Hopefully this is enough to convince the powers that be to green light a nicely budgeted and deserving sequel! If you have a 3D set and need a fun if slightly grisly action movie, you won't get much better than DREDD.
Here's the link to Amazon to make your purchase if you're so inclined.