Dredd 3D

Dredd 3D

The Hollywood Movie Factory has turned out another flick, helping to satiate the demand for competent but uninspired action vehicles conveniently forgettable enough not to take up valuable cerebral RAM for the long-term. This one is called Dredd 3D and is based on the same source material that spawned the Stallone production some years ago. I hardly remember the previous version, and I fully expect to have difficulties recalling the present one when, in a decade or two, they remake it. More interesting than the movie, however, are all the libertarian points it makes without any indication that it means to.

In the future, the United States has become an irradiated wasteland, save for a megacity that stretches from old Boston to old DC. A place of squalor and, one suspects based on general living conditions, a robust welfare state, 800 million inhabitants huddle together inside its protective walls, trying to eke out an existence while spawning the occasional mutant.

There are gigantic living centers hundreds of stories high where like classes of people are housed. These massive structures have all the hallmarks of government housing, from a disinterested janitorial staff to poorly maintained and infrequently cleaned premises to homeless squatters claiming filthy nooks and crannies. As one would expect, drug lords dominate in these neglected mini-cities.

Judge Dredd, a member of the police/military class, has the legal privilege to apprehend, try, and punish on his own authority. He takes a student out with him for a day, a young woman who cannot manage a passing grade at the academy but whose mutant psychic powers make her highly desirable for the force. In answering a police call, they enter Peach Trees, the name of one of the gigantic living complexes, and arrest a prominent member of a powerful drug gang. The local drug lord, fearing what information her subordinate will give away when he is interrogated, locks down the building and tries to eliminate the judges.

Though the movie evinces no libertarian intentions, it gets a lot of things right about which a libertarian can make a number of points. Consider the Drug War. There is a new drug called Slo-Mo that slows down perception of reality for the user, making seconds seem like minutes. A drop of rain, from the perspective of someone on a Slo-Mo high, appears to hang in the air and hardly move. To society’s detriment, this seemingly innocuous drug is prohibited, and all the attendant black market decay, violence, and corruption are everywhere to be seen.

The movie does not get into it, but it is an interesting exercise to imagine the fictional history of the drug. Like marijuana, it is harmless, making it a prime target for prohibitionists, but harmlessness is never enough. For a drug to be outlawed, it must also be stained by association with a people considered inferior or at least lower class.

A drug with the effects of Slo-Mo would be a positive boon for, say, a particle physicist. How better to catch a glimpse of some exotic and elusive speck of quark than to slow it down by a factor of who knows how many orders of magnitude? In such a case, the drug would be hailed as a modern miracle, and some lucky pharmaceutical company would be taking out patents right and left while collecting money hand over fist. We must suppose, then, for the sake of plausibility, that unemployed welfare recipients got to it first and used it to prolong their orgasms, or something similarly unseemly.

In this world there would, of course, be a corollary to the medical marijuana movement, maybe called the scientific Slo-Mo coalition, who would endlessly argue the benefits of decriminalization to a public that was largely not paying attention, but this is not shown in the movie.

What is shown, however, are the results of government provision of police services. The figure is given that there are 17,000 reported crimes each day in the megacity, and Judge Dredd explains to his rookie that they cannot possibly handle all of them. They must choose which crimes to ignore and which to investigate.

Dredd 3D
The warrant scene was edited out.

Government provision of anything leads to shortages, as we all know. This is why our courts are backed up; this is why we are chastised for using water and are subject to blackouts. It would make more sense to allow each living structure to form its own police force, made up of gun-carrying citizens, but government prefers to have that power to itself. Even the streamlined “due process,” which consists of a Judge deciding your fate on the spot, is analogous to the plea bargaining system we have now, where hardly any case ever goes to trial. Instead, a district attorney uses the possibility of ridiculous sentences and dozens of charges all stemming from what is essentially one crime (which often is not even a real crime) to induce the suspect to plead guilty for a lesser charge.

When government feels the squeeze, it responds by relaxing standards. Can anyone imagine Ford Motor Company not moving Heaven and Earth to keep up with a surge in demand for automobiles while maintaining quality?

The movie does not deal with the problem of mistakes in sentencing, a problem made worse by the frequent use of the death penalty. Nor does it show us the tyrants that policemen given such powers must become. The Judges are depicted as hard but fair, for the most part, bent on cleaning up the city and unconcerned by personal gain. Though a handful of Judges do succumb to the bribery of the wealthy drug lords, at no time do we see a Judge who abuses his power on his own, just for the sheer joy of exercising power or possibly to set up his own little fiefdom within the greater empire.

Nevertheless, this mediocre offering does a good job of showing us the real effects of drug prohibition and police power, even if we must fill in the causes and interrelationship on our own. It is a pity that the movie itself was not more engrossing.

2.5 / 5 stars     

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About the Author

Matthew Bruce Alexander Staff Writer

Matthew is a libertarian living in central Ohio. A graduate of Ohio State University, he majored in Spanish and has published a work of libertarian science-fiction called Wĭthûr Wē.

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Bag October 1, 2012 @ 11:13 am | Link

    You said:

    “The Hollywood Movie Factory has turned out another flick, ”

    Yet, this film is not a Hollywood production, and has nothing at all to do with the Hollywood movie Factory. Get the basic facts right please.

    I disagree with the whole review, its a great R rated adult action movie based on some amazing source material. Its a cult classic in its infancy!

    • Geoffrey Allan Plauché October 1, 2012 @ 12:41 pm | Link

      “Yet, this film is not a Hollywood production, and has nothing at all to do with the Hollywood movie Factory. Get the basic facts right please.”

      Now that I’ve looked into it, I suppose you’re right. The film was made by a major Indian film company. However, Matthew will probably argue that they’re trying to model the Hollywood big-budget blockbuster style of moviemaking, so that the essence of his criticism still stands. We’ll see what he has to say. Seems like a minor nitpick though. But thank you for the correction.

      “I disagree with the whole review, its a great R rated adult action movie based on some amazing source material. Its a cult classic in its infancy!”

      I’m not sure how you disagree with the “whole review.” Do you approve of welfare, drug prohibition, and the police state? Or do you disagree with Matthew that the film depicts the evils of these things well without explaining how they are all causally interconnected?

    • Matthew Alexander October 1, 2012 @ 1:48 pm | Link


      “Yet, this film is not a Hollywood production, and has nothing at all to do with the Hollywood movie Factory. Get the basic facts right please.”

      Nor did it come out of a factory. The term was a metaphor.

      “I disagree with the whole review, its a great R rated adult action movie based on some amazing source material. Its a cult classic in its infancy!”

      Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Mine is that this one is forgettable. The review actually did very little to talk about the artistic merits of the film; I was more interested in the libertarian perspective.

      Do you disagree with my points about police powers and the drug war, or just that I found the movie rather average?

  • Jez Quigley October 1, 2012 @ 11:21 am | Link

    Very possibly the worst review I have read for a long time. I think this reviewer wanted to see a particular film and as he did not get it, decided to complain anyway. I honestly don’t know where to start with this – other than to say I am sorry that you did not ‘get’ the film. It truly is your loss.

    • Geoffrey Allan Plauché October 1, 2012 @ 12:43 pm | Link

      Jez, could you explain why it is the worst review you have read in a long time? The rest of your comment doesn’t really do that. What is bad about it? With what do you disagree?

    • Matthew Alexander October 1, 2012 @ 2:13 pm | Link

      Jez Quigley,

      “I think this reviewer wanted to see a particular film and as he did not get it”

      What makes you think that? Other than wanting to see a good film, I placed no demands on it.

      “other than to say I am sorry that you did not ‘get’ the film.”

      Really? Was this a deep and subtle film and I missed something? What was it about the film you feel I did not get?

  • random mike October 1, 2012 @ 1:26 pm | Link

    I don’t think anything in the movie suggests that welfare and the drug war are bad. You could just as easily make the opposite argument: This violentass dystopia is what happens when the government doesn’t do enough to help the poor and ban drugs.

    • Matthew Alexander October 1, 2012 @ 2:21 pm | Link

      random mike,

      “I don’t think anything in the movie suggests that welfare and the drug war are bad.”

      I think you’re right, mike. That’s why I was saying that it made some libertarian points without really intending to. It does an accurate job of depicting some things, and the libertarian can fill in a lot of the details as to cause and effect.

      You could of course make the argument that the city in Judge Dredd is what happens when government does not do enough, but I don’t think you could do it ‘just as easily’. Indeed,you would have a tough row to hoe with that argument, as economic logic and historic precedent are lined up against you.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Dean Wilson October 2, 2012 @ 2:23 pm | Link

    Is anyone familiar with the Judge Dredd comic from the long-running 2000 A.D.? I’ve been curious for a while what the point of it is–that is, the thematic reason for the dystopia. I had hoped it was a backlash against the drug war, but the more I look into it it seems reactionary, but dressed up in punk art. Can anyone weigh in? I’d like to read some of the archives, but don’t want to waste my time if it’s mindless, statist violence in the name of “order”–that is, I worry it will be like the Dredd movies and not the (slightly better) Demolition Man.

    • Geoffrey Allan Plauché October 3, 2012 @ 6:15 pm | Link

      I’m familiar with the Judge Dredd comic, but I haven’t read it yet. I’ve only seen the 1995 movie so far. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

    • cg November 5, 2012 @ 1:42 am | Link

      The book Judge Dredd is most of the time briliant satire. When for say Dredd talks about terrorists (who call themselves democrats, wating democracy), what they are prepeared to do when gaining power, he could might as well be talking about himself and the Judges.

      This is something the movie balanced well IMO. I loved the balls to the wall action, but also that the movie took time to adress it through showing consequences. And as the review stated 17 000 crimes per day, and Judges only respond to 6% of them = then what gives? Is the violence they use really working?

      If you want to know the “story” behind why the world turned into shit, then Judge Dredd Origins is a really good book. Basicly a motorcycle bound western in a radioactive wasteland where Dredd faces an old foe.

      Othervice a good start to read Dredd is the story Judge Dredd America which is about a boy and a girl growing up in MC1, and one of them becomes a terrorist who’s preperaded to die by the words “democracy or death!”.

      A good start is America and Origins. Dredd case files 02 and 05 are really good too (Cursed earth, Day the law died, Judge Death Lives, Bloc Mania and Apocalypse war), old gold. Crazy stories , especialy Apocalypse war (one of the best portrayals of the cold insanity behind a nuclear war. Sov block vs MC1, and no telling who’s worst, both sides are just as insane!)

      • Geoffrey Allan Plauché November 5, 2012 @ 2:00 am | Link

        Thank you for commenting, CG, and for the insight into the comics. I’ll put those on my to-read list.


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