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Lionsgate and the Masters of the Web panel co-sponsored the world premiere of Dredd 3D to a packed house at San Diego Comic Con Wednesday night. Dedicated fans lined up around the block for a chance to get into the screening, and the chance to hear stars Karl Urban and Olivia Thirlby intro the film. The two play judges in a burned-out, post-apocalyptic metropolis, and as Urban cautioned before the screening, rambunctious crowd grabbing Dredd tickets better like their movies to be “dark and gritty.”
Needless to say, that got a pretty loud round of applause from the SDCC crowd.
And Dredd 3D delivers on the promise. Director Pete Travis takes a crack at John Wagner’s strong, silent graphic novel character, a police officer tasked with acting as judge, jury and – when necessary – executioner on the streets of his corrupt city. After taking down a trio of drug addicts hooked on SLO-MO, Dredd (Urban) is paired with Cassandra Anderson, a rookie on the judge program who’s also a gifted clairvoyant. Criminals (and colleagues) dismiss Anderson as a “mutant,” though her powers come in handy on more than one occasion after she and Dredd are called to a complicated assignment at Peach Trees, a high-rise tower populated with shady and well-armed thugs working for Mama (Lena Headey, who’s fantastic).
The rest I’ll leave up to you to discover. Dredd 3D is going to draw comparisons to Gareth Evans’ The Raid, which is unfair. Obviously, both films (shot at the same time) feature overmatched protagonists mowing down armies of relentless enemies to reach a criminal kingpin at the top of a fortress. But Dredd opts for blunt violence in places where The Raid leaned toward graceful – yet still bone-snapping – fight choreography. The introduction of the unique drug SLO-MO means Travis can – and does – show us bullets gliding through body parts and limbs being blown to smithereens. Dredd holds its own with other grindhouse action thrillers: Short on story, but amped up with gore.
I think Urban’s Dredd, and Travis’ forceful direction, wash away the memories of Sylvester Stallone’s 1995 take on the character in a stream of blood and bullets. And for fans of the graphic novels – or of pulp action, in general – that’s probably enough to get you to check out the new film. Oh, and Urban leaves the mask on the whole time (which I hear is pretty important). Dredd 3D will be in theaters on Sept. 21.