From the moment the film starts, you know that this is not a Hollywood film, and that fact alone gives it so much more power right from the first scene. Shot in Johannesburg and featuring a cast which is largely unfamiliar to global audiences, the film is bleak, brutal, stylish and so gritty it hurts. He keeps the helmet on, there's no Rob Schneider, no Hollywood meddling, and it has come out beautifully as a grim and relentless action film which is absolutely nothing like what came before.
It isn't the Judge Dredd film that fans of the character have had in their heads for years, but in terms of bringing the character to the screen properly and without a big, crass Hollywood polish, it's absolutely perfect.
Dredd and a rookie Judge the psychic Anderson, are dispatched to calm a turf war between drug gangs in the Peach Trees block. They get caught up in the battle, and end up as the prey as all 200 floors of the giant block turn against them. Yes, it shares some plot similarities with 'The Raid', but who actually gives a crap? This is a DROKKING JUDGE DREDD FILM, and thus by definition is set apart from that other film. It's just a shame that they came out so close together, as comparisons are inevitable.
DREDD 3D is a beautiful symphony of ultraviolence which brings the brutal 2000AD concepts to the big screen in a fashion a million times harder than the Stallone version. The two films are so utterly different that there is absolutely no way anyone watching it can see it as a remake. This is a new start, and it kicks ass.
The violence is gorgeously shot, and you'll be surprised at just how pretty the sight of someone's face being blown to pieces (and splattering out of the edges of the letterboxed film) can be. The Slo-Mo sections are a wonder to behold, psychedelic and aesthetically very pretty, but again they mainly serve to make the brutality on show even more shocking. The Slo-Mo effect is maybe used a little too often, but that's a small gripe, really. Lena Headey clearly had a blast playing the villainous Ma-Ma, and she steals each of her scenes with a performance at once quietly malevolent and utterly unhinged.
The film may be lo-fi and relatively low budget, but it blasts at the viewer like a Hi-Ex from Dredd's Lawgiver, and will hopefully lead to larger scale sequels. The world of Judge Dredd is so vast and rich and entertaining that it would be a crime in itself not to see more of it. So get to it, Urban and co, or you'll end up in the Iso-Cubes with the rest of the perps! DREDD is brilliant.
PS: Yes, it's better than the oddly-cut trailers make it seem.