Judge Dredd (1995)
Directed by: Danny Cannon
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Diane Lane, Armand Assante, Rob Schneider, Jürgen Prochnow, Max von Sydow, Joan Chen
1/2 (out of 4)
I Am The Law … of diminishing box office returns!
1995 saw the release of Judge Dredd, one of those big-budget “graphic novel” adaptations based on the 2000 AD comics. It’s a “future” movie like that other Stallone vehicle, Demolition Man, and you know how great that one was (well ok, it wasn’t that bad, but it was no masterpiece). I think somewhere in the story of Judge Dredd is a commentary about absolute power corrupting and perhaps there’s a message about the dangers of genetic tampering. But… somewhere along the line the people bankrolling this movie decided that it was more important just to have Sylvester Stallone and Armand Assante blow shit up really good. Oh, and maybe use one of those huge war robots. And you better throw in that copy guy from SNL.
At some point in the third millennium, the planet has become a “scorched earth” with people herded into mega-cities where chaos reigns. Therefore, the justice system as we know it has been altered substantially, where “judges” patrol the streets and pass down sentences on the spot. Then they carry those sentences out, which usually involves something like death, or at the very least, enormous property damage. We are told all this in the beginning through the use of scrolling text, which is spoken by James Earl Jones for those of us who can’t read. Don’t worry, the rest of the movie is also made for these type of people – specifically, those who like things spelled out simply, and loudly.
Orgasm Guy and Judge Dredd team up!
Speaking of simple and loud, here comes our hero Judge Dredd, played by Sylvester Stallone. Since speaking complicated dialogue is just not within Sly’s capabilities, the creators of the film have him shouting one-liners in a stilted, Robocop-like style. For example: “This room has been pacified”, “Prepare to be judged!”, and, of course, “I Am The Law!”. Dredd is supposed to be uncompromising and willing to execute criminals on the spot if called for. The problem is, he’s automatically watered down for public consumption in a scene where he sentences a criminal to death for murdering another street judge. But because Sly is supposed to be a likable hero, the bad guy has to pull a gun on him first. It’s the same kind of character tampering George Lucas did with Han Solo and Greedo, and you know how well that went over.
Anyway, after Dredd is framed for a murder he doesn’t commit, his mentor (Max von Sydow) is forced into early retirement which involves, apparently, being exiled into the desert. (Not even a watch for a souvenir?) Oh, there’s a crazy former judge named Rico (the wide-eyed Armand Assante – remember him from Prophecy?) who is used in a plot to murder all the street judges and reactivate a secret breeding program for “super” judges. Or something. There’s a love interest, too (Diane Lane). Uh, did I mention Rob Schneider? Yes, he’s in the movie from beginning to end and plays the most annoying comic relief sidekick since Short Round. To my disappointment (and probably Dredd’s), Schneider’s character survives to the end credits – if there is ever a sequel, you can bet he’ll be back to continue his goofy routine. [Note: because the vastly superior Dredd remake bombed, I wouldn't expect any more Dredd movies for quite awhile]
This scene is not ripped off from Return of the Jedi. It is an illusion!
There are some sources of amusement. The biggest involves present day items that we are supposed to believe make it to the future (so Coors and Jack in the Box survive the next thousand years). And what about the guy playing Rob Zombie’s Super Charger Heaven in his car? Is that, like, classical music now? There’s the Angel family, a bunch of cannibal hicks that live outside the city (that’s from the comics), one of which is some kind of redneck cyborg (“Mean Machine”) who says stuff like “Lemme crush ‘em, pa!” Uh, there’s Joan Chen, a villainous scientist, who is pretty hot, and she has a cat fight with Diane Lane, who is also hot. And I liked the futuristic visuals of MegaCity, which reminded me of a lower-budget rendition of what we saw in The Fifth Element (which was made later, so props to Judge Dredd for doing it first).
The biggest misstep of Judge Dredd is probably the confusing and rushed finale, where we are promised a fight involving monstrous clones of Rico, forced to hatch early so Rico can have reinforcements. But then, they disappear! Just… gone, and never mentioned again. Did somebody in the budget department run out of money? Instead we are treated to a boring fight between Armanto and Sly at the top of the Statue of Liberty. The fight comes with that stupid gag where the two heavies stop fighting long enough for somebody to spout off a one-liner, like “I’ll be the judge of that!” or “Court’s adjourned!”. People complained that Judge Dredd took off his helmet in this movie. If only that was the biggest of this movie’s problems.
- Bill Gordon
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It would be cooler if Mean Machine’s dial went up to 11