Director: Pete Travis
Stars: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Wood Harris, Domhnall Gleeson
When adapting a bleak and violent comic book character, there are a few things you shouldn't do, and chief amongst those crimes are the following offenses: Don't cast Rob Schneider in any role whatsoever, and stay as true to the beloved source material as humanly possible. Back in 1995, director Danny Cannon committed both wrongheaded acts when he made Judge Dredd, an abysmally acted, uneven, and cheesy affair starring a confused Sylvester Stallone as the title character, whose origins trace back to the old British comic strip 2000 A.D.; not only did Cannon and company have Dredd walk around without his signature helmet, but, again, they cast Rob Schneider as his (unfunny) comedic sidekick.
Seventeen years later, though, the judge finally has his day. Dredd 3D, an amazingly violent and to-the-point romp, does everything that the '95 film should have done, giving the character a slick, sardonic sense of humor that never undermines his ability to cave in a person's Adam's apple with a club and blast deviants through their cheeks with bullets. Hats off to screenwriter Alex Garland (the writing brains behind director Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later… and Sunshine), who opens Dredd with a show-stopping chase sequence and never lets the characters stop to catch any breath after that. And Pete Travis, the film's imaginative director, upstages Danny Cannon every step of the way, lending Dredd a striking visual palette of glossy, Blade Runner-esque shine offset by dank, grimy interiors.
It's clear that, in making Dredd and attempting to restore the character's once-good name, Travis and Garland had a simple plan and saw it all the way through: Give the fans all of the carnage and black comedy they've been wanting and never look back. For that, the second shot at giving comic writer John Wagner's creation an effective big screen presence is a rousing triumph. Memories of Rob Schneider cracking wise alongside Sly Stallone, be damned.