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In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO.
For more about Dredd 3D and the Dredd 3D Blu-ray release, see Dredd 3D Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on December 27, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Karl Urban, Lena Headey, Olivia Thirlby, Wood Harris, Warrick Grier, Porteus Xandau Steenkamp
Director: Pete Travis
» See full cast & crew
Dredd 3D Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, December 27, 2012
My wife is a huge Star Trek fan, so we have been wiling away our (few) free hours over the holiday break catching up on old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 2. While any given episode is of course full to bursting with various conflicts and tribulations, this series, like just about all of Gene Roddenberry's huge, sprawling franchise, posits a future where things have actually improved. That may not seem like such an incredible accomplishment, but just think about it for a moment: how many television shows or films can you think of which are set in the future where things are relatively rosy? Does The Jetsons count? (And in that show things aren't just "rosy," the robotic maid is named Rosie.) For some reason people who are drawn to writing about the future often color their predictions with calamities, dysfunction and outright catastrophe. This is nothing new, as readers of Nostradamus will concur, but even noted writers like H.G. Wells tended to err on the negative side of things with their predictive fiction like The Time Machine and Things to Come. This tendency toward dystopia has only increased with the so-called Age of Anxiety, as if we're projecting our deepest fears onto a yet unseen and unknown time to help us cope with the present. And so we come to Dredd, the 2012 reboot of the 2000AD comic Judge Dredd which was previously made in 1995 as a fairly lamentable Sylvester Stallone feature. Both Stallone and Dredd co- creator John Wagner are on record as voicing their disappointment (at a minimum) with the project. Stallone seems to think Judge Dredd missed the boat by not being more satirical, while Wagner seems to think the 1995 film had relatively little to do with his conception of the character to begin with. Aside from the similarity in titles and (not to state the obvious) the leading character, there's little else uniting these two films, and whatever else its flaws may be, this "new, improved" Dredd is a considerably sharper and better written adaptation than the Stallone vehicle. But forewarned is forearmed: the future in Dredd is anything but bright, so sunglasses are generally not needed, though a Judge's helmet (replete with shaded visor) is de rigeur.
From the perspective of several basic premises, there are quite a few similarities between the 1995 Judge Dredd and this new version. Both follow the original source comic in setting their stories in a dystopian future made of metropolises called Mega Cities, with the actual locale being Mega City One, a sprawling oasis of sorts that spans the entire Eastern seabord and has been built on the ruins of an irradiated apocalyptic wasteland. Within these Mega Cities are huge skyscrapers called megablocks that house hundreds of thousands of people. Crime is rampant and the quasi-fascistic government has appointed Judges to handle it all. These "one stop shopping" judicial enforcement agents are not just judge, but also jury and executioner, dispensing justice as they see fit once they encounter a crime scene.
That said, the 1995 Judge Dredd was a kind of misbegotten casserole of ideas that may have struck some as having some unintended irony by including both some tangential references to cloning along with that "makin' copies" guy from Saturday Night Live, Rob Schneider, as a supporting actor. Dredd has a much more streamlined plot which focuses on the titular Judge (Karl Urban) "assessing" a psychic rookie named Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) to see if she has what it takes to join the "judicial" ranks. Anderson has failed the actual test for being a Judge, but her unique psychic abilities have brought her to the attention of the highest echelons of the government bureaucracy, and they want to see how she performs in "field conditions". Meanwhile, a notorious drug lord and megablock gang leader named Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) is manufacturing and dispensing a virulent new drug called Slo-Mo which, when smoked, makes its users sense time at around 1/50th of its normal speed. Ma-Ma does not take kindly to having her turf questioned, and when she literally skins three ill advised competitors alive and dumps their remains in the atrium of the high rise city within a city that she commands, Anderson decides that's the crime call she and Dredd should answer.
The rest of the film plays within the confines of Ma-Ma's megablock, the anachronistically named Peachtrees. What Dredd and Anderson initially think is going to be a relatively simple drug bust turns into a life or death cat and mouse game between the two Judges (or in Anderson's case, prospective Judge) and Ma-Ma's gang of thugs. When Ma-Ma closes down the megablock under an engineered "war" shield program, Dredd and Anderson find themselves trapped in a towering deathtrap with threats around every corner.
There's no denying that Dredd is often a bristling and viscerally exciting action film, but there's also no denying that certain aspects of it are awfully derivative. The opening "news footage" of various displaced classes plays like something out of District 9, while Karl Urban's husky whispered vocal take on Dredd seems an outright copy of the Christopher Nolan conception of Batman in The Dark Knight Trilogy. Meanwhile, Lena Headey's Ma-Ma might be mistaken for a not so distant cousin to the Joanna Cassidy character in Blade Runner. To its credit, though, the film doesn't really try to be anything than a massive knock down, drag out fight between good and evil. There are some passing attempts to humanize Anderson and to give Ma-Ma a little backstory (something the motion comic prequel included with a supplement actually probably does a little bit better), but when you get right down to it, Dredd is more or less one gigantic set piece within the strangely claustrophobic confines of an immense skyscraper, and as such both Alex Garland's screenplay and Pete Travis' direction get their jobs done very well indeed.
Some of the horrific events that were visited upon our nation in December may come back to haunt Dredd at least tangentially in its home video release. The film was already under the gun (pun intended) for its extreme and often very graphic violence, but with the recent mass shootings, the wholesale destruction of so many innocent bystanders throughout the film may give some people pause. I personally live in a suburb of Portland, Oregon, which some may remember had its own smaller scale tragedy when an insane gunman killed two people in a crowded shopping mall shortly before Christmas, and unfortunately there's a shopping mall massacre that takes place early in Dredd as well. It's of course ironic in that Dredd is attempting to show us a vision of the future where lawlessness prevails and the mighty arm of the law is absolute and unquestioned, while here in our present time overtly violent films like Dredd are being questioned by some for fostering that very lawlessness.
Dredd 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
Dredd is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Films with both AVC (2D) and MVC (3D) encoded 1080p transfers in 2.40:1. Cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (Academy Award Winner for Slumdog Millionaire) has intentionally cast this film in a sort of surreal, soft ambience a lot of the time, with quite a bit of the CGI verging almost on cartoon like smoothness. Therefore, the film may not quite pop with the vividness that some will be expecting. That said, fine detail is exceptional, and the transfer ably offers the weird greenish hues inside Peachtrees with no substantial loss of shadow detail. Colors are often fairly muted (intentionally so), but the slate gray look of several of the exteriors is represented very well and the sickly yellow haze that spreads over Mega City One also is quite convincingly accurate appearing. It frankly took me a few minutes to surrender to the "look" of this film, which is admittedly a bit softer than I'm used to seeing in quasi- science fiction outings like this, but once I grew accustomed to it, it really grew on me and the irony of the blood soaked grittiness with the kind of smooth, ultra-digital sheen of some of the backgrounds ultimately seemed like a very smart design decision.
The 3D experience here is similarly kind of nonintuitive. Instead of thrusting objects into the virtual face of the viewer, Travis and Mantle chose to go a more subtle route, by "suggesting" depth through extreme close-ups of faces (the film utilized a couple of cameras developed specifically for this shoot). Travis and Mantle both frame a lot of shots through foreground objects like chain link fences and wiring, but those are typically out of focus and don't appreciably add to the visual immersion. The film's kind of soft and often monochromatic color scheme also may not initially seem to offer much in the way of a 3D "wow" factor, but there are several standout sequences nonetheless. The "Slo-Mo" drug effects are probably the showiest, with Travis finally relenting and, yes, thrusting objects into the face of the viewer, but there are a number of other very effective moments, including some great shots up through the massive atrium of Peachtrees.
Dredd 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Dredd features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix (optimized for the Neo:X 11.1 system) that is, in a word, astounding. The onslaught of LFE in this film is amazing and is perhaps surprisingly not limited to the ubiquitous gunfire. In fact my personal favorite sound effect throughout the entire film was the throbbing hum of an elevator that Anderson finds herself taken hostage in. But the entire film is awash in incredible surround activity from virtually the first moment, when we get Dredd's iconic motorcycle panning madly through the soundfield. Dynamic range is among the widest I've personally experienced, with everything from Dredd's hushed dialogue to absolutely over the top explosions handled with ease. One of the notable things about this film is how carefully the effects tracks have been assembled, with directionality really smartly done. So many action films just kind of throw the sonic bombast at the virtual wall, knowing that everything will stick. Dredd, however, very carefully places discrete effects at several key moments (one especially huge explosion which clearly erupts from the right side of the frame also does so aurally from the right channels). Fidelity is top notch and this certainly will be one of the reference quality audio tracks high definition aficionados will be talking about throughout 2013.
Dredd 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Dredd 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Dredd received fairly positive critical reaction when it was released, but it still failed to really ignite at the box office. I have to wonder how this new Blu-ray is going to be received in the current climate that is understandably touchy over mass shootings, something that is part and parcel of this film. But without getting into the seemingly eternal debate of how much influence media violence has on impressionable minds, Dredd is a remarkably exciting film, one that doesn't waste a lot of time on psychology and motivation, and instead just gives us that equally eternal showdown between good and evil. This Blu-ray offers great looking video, although the 3D effects, while substantial, are often very subtle. The audio is simply spectacular and should blow away all but the most hardened audiophile. While the supplementary package isn't overwhelming, it's still enjoyable, and the release comes Highly Recommended.
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Blu-ray.com and Lionsgate Films are offering five members a chance to win various prize packages which include a copy of Dredd. One grand prize winner will receive a copy of Dredd on Blu-ray, a poster signed by stars Karl Urban and Olivia Thirlby, a comic ...
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