Dredd 3D – Blu-ray
Lionsgate Films
Release Date: Jan 8, 2013
Genre: Action
Rated: R
Reviewed by Mark Smith

Review Score: 4.5 of 5

When I first heard about Dredd my initial reaction was a mix of despair and disgust for Hollywood in general. Their continued inability to manufacture one original idea while incessantly falling back to remanufacture, repurpose, and reboot old franchises is one reason why video games are quickly taking over as the popular entertainment choice by consumers hungry for some originality.

Within a relatively short span of time this summer we were treated to reboots for both Total Recall and Judge Dredd. While these movies weren’t legendary successes in their original form they are still part of sci-fi pop culture and firmly rooted in my 40+ years of movie-going experiences, so any attempt to tamper with them is an affront to my memories. Even more ironic, both of these movies were so different from their original counterparts that they could have easily changed the names to avoid confusion and/or insult.

The original Judge Dredd was more of a campy romp that was hard to take seriously when you have a sidekick played by Rob Schneider and a moustache-twirling villain played to excess by Armand Assante, while Sylvester Stallone belted out memorable one-liners like “I am the law!” Dredd divorces itself from just about everything from its past with only a few exceptions; the helmet, the bike, and that memorable one-liner.

Karl Urban plays Dredd, perhaps the most feared and respected judge in Mega City One, and we meet up with him as he takes down a van full of junkies that includes an exciting car chase and climactic showdown in a mall food court. Back at HQ he is put in charge of evaluating a rookie cop named Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) who just fell short of her entrance exams, but whose mutant psychic abilities have earned her a second chance should she stack up to Dredd’s impossibly high standards. But this training day is going to be anything but by the book.

Scattered about the Mega City are these towering tenements, one of which is home to Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) who is manufacturing a new drug called Slo-Mo (basically a cool way to justify showing many of the upcoming action scenes in super-slow-motion). She has three dealers skinned and tossed from the 200th floor, and when Dredd and Anderson show up to investigate things turn deadly. The judges capture one of Ma-Ma’s head guys and plan to interrogate him back at HQ but Ma-Ma has her tech-guru lockdown the building and puts a bounty on the judges. Now it’s two judges against the entire building in one of the most exciting and violent showdowns of any action flick in 2012.

I really enjoyed the chemistry that started to develop between Dredd and Anderson despite Urban’s gruff robotic delivery of his short-sentence dialogue. Some quips dangerously approached humor. I also enjoyed the way that the film maintained the threat that our judges were in constant danger and always on the run. Not until the decision is made to take the fight to Ma-Ma, do we feel our pistol-packing judges may have the upper hand, but even then tables can and will be turned, right up until the exciting ending.

Dredd impressed me in theaters with some outstanding 3D that mostly jumped off the screen in those sparkly slow-motion moments. My first viewing in 2D on Blu-ray was great with plenty of gritty realism and expert use of CG ranging from sprawling panoramic exterior shots of the city to subtle tweaks in action sequences and explosive shootouts. Most of the film takes place in the dark and depressing high-rise, but the grain was minimal while the detail levels were high. Contrast was sharp and colors were vibrant during Slo-mo but more subdued the rest of the time, and they did seem to be tweaked to favor green and yellows creating an unpleasant, almost polluted atmosphere. Admittedly, the 2D experience falls a bit flat when compared to the 3D version packaged on the same disc. While 3D moments are judiciously sparse, usually reserved for drug-induced Slo-mo moments, they did provide a bit of added depth on the establishing shots of the high-rise structure, with sweeping cameras that crested the roof or plummeted down the interior atrium.

The DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix sounds incredible and this is one of the few movies in my collection that support the new Neo: X 11.1, although I have yet to find an affordable receiver to support this upcoming standard. As it stands, even with eight speakers you are in for a real treat, especially if you have a quality sub-woofer. The LFE in this movie is unparalleled to anything I’ve experience this year on Blu-ray, so glue your knickknacks to the shelf and crank this sucker up. I loved the sound mix and the perfectly balanced dialogue that allowed me to hear every subdued growl coming from Urban’s exposed and unshaven chin.

Dredd offers up a few tasty morsels of bonus content starting with Mega-City Masters: 35 Years of Judge Dredd, a 14-minute retrospective on the Judge Dredd franchise (comics only) with interviews of John Wagner, Carlos Ezsquerra, Matt Smith, and Brian Bolland to name just a few. Day of Chaos: The Visual Effects of Dredd is a 15-minute look at the visual effects and the new 3D and high-speed cameras that were used to record up to 3000fps and has interviews with Jon Thum and Neil Miller. The rest of the bonus items are 2-minute bite-sized chunks including a Dredd Featurette, a look at costumes in Dredd’s Gear, The 3rd Dimension, Welcome to Peachtrees, Dredd Motion Comic Prequel that provides a bit of backstory on Ma-Ma and Slo-mo, and a theatrical trailer.

Dredd 3D was fantastic in the theaters and it’s just as good at home on this stunning Blu-ray combo package that allows you to enjoy it in 2D and 3D, and for those with a descent home theater sound system, prepare to blow the windows out with one of the most powerful DTS mixes you’ll experience this year. I would have enjoyed more extras and a commentary but I’ll take what I can get, and Dredd delivers everything I want in a non-stop action movie home viewing experience.