Judge Dredd (1995)
Director: Danny Cannon
In a fascist-like future, armed soldiers known as Street Judges keep the peace amidst chaos stricken Mega-City 1. They are judges, jury and executioners, all rolled up in one. When the establishment’s numero uno ass-kicking Judge (Stallone) gets framed for a murder he didn’t commit, he sets out to clear his name, leaving a trail of destruction in his path. Set your “Law-Giver” to “armor piercing” and fire away! HE IS THE LAW!
"I am the law! Put down your weapons and prepare to be judged." --- Judge Dredd
Two things must be said before I begin this review. #1: I never followed or read the comics on which this flick is based on, so I didn’t know or care if it was faithful to its source material. #2: I’m a huge Sylvester Stallone fan, the man has heavily inspired me throughout my evolution from teen to man and no matter how “off” he can be in some of his movies, I will always love the big lug unconditionally. Now on with the judging!
This big bad flick was universally bashed by all the critics upon its initial release and I’m here, on top of a mountain with an M-60 in hand and a red bandana around my head, to scream: IT WASN’T THAT BAD! Sure, the film didn’t display one ounce of originality, but at least it ripped off solid movies. The eye-popping future backdrops sported the designs of "Blade Runner" and the feel of "Total Recall", the film’s plot felt like Stallone’s own "Demolition Man" and the exciting flying motorcycle chase was straight out of "Return of the Jedi". And that wasn’t all. The satirical-like vibe reeked of "Robocop" while the Cannibal Clan was reminiscent of "The Hills Have Eyes" with one member actually looking a lot like Eddie from Iron Maiden's "Somewhere in Time" album cover. With that said you still have to give the movie this: it put out its mimicry and déjà vu set pieces with gusto and high energy.
So even though the plot found here was interesting enough to keep me going, with predictable yet enjoyable turns in its trunk, it was really the physical mayhem that cranked my dial to big smiles. The pace of this bullet was furious...I didn’t get one micro-second of boredom! The yummy violence was also excessive (that’s good!), the gunplay laid on thick (gotta love those voice-activated side arms), the fisticuffs enthralling and the chase scenes jaw-dropping. The acting was also highly amusing, with a number of "so grandiose they’re cheesy" dramatic moments gracing the screen (love the court scene) and a rampant Armande Assante aka Rico gobbling the scenery like Jenna Jameson on a rod sucking spree. Man, did the man have a hoot with the part or what? I relished every moment Assante was on screen and found myself surprised at the subtle layers he managed to bring to the role as well. Rico definitely had more depth than Dredd.
Thematically, the flick tried to make some kind of statement on the legal system and the nature of justice. It also slapped a half-cocked love angle in there and played the re-awakened “feelings” game when it came to Dredd. But let’s face it, most of it just didn’t hit the mark. The substance was either never taken far enough for me to care or went over my head because I was too busy grinning like a doped-up Chiwawa while watching Stallone mow down all kinds of people with a gun the length of a fireman’s ladder. NOW THAT’S FUN TIMES! And say what you will about the Sly man, but nobody and I mean nobody, looks more comfortable and kool-as-ice firing a big ass gun on film than he does. It just works aces!
In the guilty chapter of the law book, no matter how much I love Stallone, I will be the first to say that his uneven performance was one of the film’s biggest drawbacks here. When he played it down and dirty (a la "Cobra") it was all good, but the second he tried too hard, he’d make a fool of himself. The crappy one-liners he spat out didn’t help his case either (“I knew you’d say that” was lame). The presence of twerp Rob Schneider (Fergie) also grated me big time. I didn’t need a short, “funny” sidekick to wash my sweet harshness down! They’ve should’ve embraced the bleakness of the flick instead of lightening things up with a babbling midget in training. Lastly, I always thought that the finale felt choppy and incomplete (severe editing perhaps?). The possibilities built upon were not fully capitalized on (should’ve had the clones go buck wild against Dredd) and the mano ET mano fisticuffs between the two enemies was somewhat underwhelming. TOO EASY!
But when all was said and judged, "Judge Dredd" was flawed, yes and derivative of better movies, yes...but it was still a freakin' riot to watch nonetheless. You get your heavy bang-bang, your cat fight (chick vs chick), your carnage robot, your flashy costumes, your clever one-liners and a slew of mean guns all wrapped up in stellar production values. It all could’ve been deeper and more developed but hey, it came through for me as an easy and brainless slice of pure macho entertainment. Court’s adjourned!
We get lots of bloody gunshot wounds (body, neck, what-not), slimy clones and a swift glimpse of a skinless corpse.
Sylvester Stallone (Dredd) was on and off. When he played it low-key, he got away with it, but when he played it up, it was embarrassing. Diane Lane (Hershey) and Joan Chen (Ilsa) did what they had to do: say their lines and look gorgeous. Armand Assante (Rico) took his villain role and ran with it. The man chewed the scenery fervently and was a delight to watch. Rob Schneider (Fergie) did his usual funny man shtick and even though I did smile a few times, I didn’t feel he was appropriate for this movie. Max von Sidow (Chief Justice) and Jurgen Prochnow (Griffin) both gave admirable shows and brought a touch of class to the picture.
T & A
We get Diane Lane and Joan Chen wrestling, too bad the clothes stay on. The ladies get a buff Stallone “Ramboing” out of his tank top. Enjoy ladies!
Danny Cannon did a fine job here, perfectly capturing the scope of the world of the film, delivering well shot action sequences and using slow motion like a champ to "up" the impact of certain scenes. I bought it!
Alan Silvestri’s heavy-handed symphonic score did an amazing job when it came to elevating the emotional resonance of some scenes. I loved it!
In a perfect world, "Judge Dredd" would’ve toned down the cheese when it came to Stallone’s shaky performance and Schneider’s childish antics. It also could’ve gone deeper into its fascinating themes. But alas, what we got instead is wham-bam, thank you dame, let’s watch the Sly Man slaughter lots of cardboard cut-outs in the future. Hey, I can EASILY live with that! Although the flick never lived up to its full potential, it filled my retinas with enough fast-paced violence, big explosions and top-notch special effects to keep my butt in my seat. In my book, "Judge Dredd" joins the ranks of "Soldier" as one of the most unjustly bashed sci-fi action bonanzas of all time. It’s one of my top lobotomized, guilty pleasures and as that type of flick, it comes through HARDCORE! I’ll leave you with my favorite exchange from the film: Warden Miller: So tell me Rico, what is the meaning of life? “Rico shoots the man down with is gun” Rico: It ends. YEAH BITCH!
Judge Dredd never removed his helmet in the comic books and having Stallone remove it in the film pissed off lots of Dredd fans at the time.
Famed fashion designer Gianni Versace designed the Judge costume.
Rumor has it that director Danny Cannon and star Sylvester Stallone were at each other’s throats during this shoot. Cannon blames Stallone’s interference for the film’s failure.
Don’t blink and you’ll see Balthazar Getty in the film.