The UK comic created in 1977 and set in 2000 gets its second blow-up to the big screen. Far less silly than 1995’s “Judge Dredd” starring Sylvester Stallone and including a dispatcher citing the corner of Abbott and Costello, “Dredd 3D” unfolds on fewer sets with more fake blood. Two Brits—screenwriter Alex Garland (“Sunshine,” “28 Days Later”) and director Pete Travis (“Vantage Point”)—adapt the original work written by John Wagner and drawn by Carlos Ezquerra. Fans of “The Raid” may note a number of plot overlaps. Fans of video games where you run down hallways, turn corners and blow away bad guys—repeat; reload; repeat—will feel at home in the lumpen high-rise where the local drug lord, make that drug lady Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), with a scary scarred face, puts the place on lockdown and puts a bounty on two “Judges” trapped inside. What are called Judges in this over-populated future are heavily armed, heavily armored, dark-visored law enforcers who arrest, charge, judge, sentence and, more often than not, execute lawbreakers. They wield multi-purpose DNA-coded, voice-activated weapons called Lawgivers. The Judge with a legend who is Dredd (Karl Urban) instructs rookie Cassandra (Olivia Thirlby) that a ninety-nine-percent certainty is insufficient for imposing a death sentence. No probability app, let alone a legislative algorithm, appears to be uploaded into his Lawgiver, though. Relevant stats: twelve “serious crimes” are committed every minute; Judges can respond to only six percent of them; and the unemployment rate in the high-rise is ninety-four percent. As a mutant psychic, Cassandra’s skill set lets her interrogate suspects by trespassing on their thoughts without a warrant. These scenes import welcome humor into this otherwise mindless action product. Although the press notes say the story is set “in a world where rational laws no longer exist,” there is zero tolerance for dialogue about irrational legislators. Travis, reportedly a former social worker, details the multitude of background talent with imagination. Other visual detail blooms in four scenes where the POV shifts to characters dosed with a drug called Slo-Mo that expands their perception of time by a factor of one hundred. This motivates super-slow-motion mini-spectacles of sparkly droplets of sprayed blood. Previewing “Dredd 3D” on a September 11 eleven years after New Yorkers fell from the 110-floor World Trade Towers, I saw a character fall 200 floors to her death. An extreme close-up of her face hitting the ground stained the screen with bright red blood. It’s not what a Wall Street Journal writer saw in 2001. From his office window, he reported on the fallen who “left small puffs of pink and red vapor drifting at ground level” upon impact. With Wood Harris, Langley Kirkwood, Junior Singo, Luke Tyler, Jason Cope, Domhnall Gleeson, Warrick Grier. 98m. (Bill Stamets)
“Dredd 3D” opens Friday.