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Judge Dredd

Judge Dredd (1995) Movie Poster
  •  USA  •    •  96m  •    •  Directed by: Danny Cannon.  •  Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Armand Assante, Rob Schneider, Jürgen Prochnow, Max von Sydow, Diane Lane, Joanna Miles, Joan Chen, Balthazar Getty, Maurice Roëves, Ian Dury, Christopher Adamson, Ewen Bremner.  •  Music by: Alan Silvestri.
        In a dystopic future, where urban areas have grown into megacities that cover entire coastal regions, the justice system has evolved to a single person invested with the power of police, judge, jury, and executioner: the Judge. Among the Judges of Mega-City One, Judge Dredd is one of the best, and a particular favorite of the Head of the Council, Judge Fargo. But there are evil forces at work in the Justice Dept: block riots and the escape of Rico, a homicidal maniac, are only steps in a plan that ultimately lead to the sentencing of Dredd for a murder he didn't commit. And Dredd must discover the secrets of his own past and survive to stop the evildoers.

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Image from: Judge Dredd (1995)
Image from: Judge Dredd (1995)
Image from: Judge Dredd (1995)
Image from: Judge Dredd (1995)
Image from: Judge Dredd (1995)
Image from: Judge Dredd (1995)
Image from: Judge Dredd (1995)
Image from: Judge Dredd (1995)
Image from: Judge Dredd (1995)
Image from: Judge Dredd (1995)
Image from: Judge Dredd (1995)
Image from: Judge Dredd (1995)
Image from: Judge Dredd (1995)
Image from: Judge Dredd (1995)
Image from: Judge Dredd (1995)
Image from: Judge Dredd (1995)
Image from: Judge Dredd (1995)
I really, really dislike Judge Dredd. It's a surprisingly violent and soulless film; a patronising moronfest that treats its audience with no respect whatsoever. Even the titles annoy, the opening music with its silly bombast and a pompous monologue by James Earl Jones. The accompanying images are a series of the 2001 comic from which the Judge Dredd character came. It's quite exceptional that a major Hollywood picture should credit a minor British comic in such a prominent way. Even more exceptional as the film is nothing like the comic. Did the cartoon Judge really have romantic entanglements and monotonously quip anti-catchphrase "I new yuud say dat"?

The film opens out with a future cityscape ludicrously indebted to Blade Runner. Except where that picture had depth, this one throws it all up on screen, a garish splurge of CGI movement. To be honest, they aren't that convincing either, particularly later scenes where Dredd is flying his bike. Yet this was made 12 years after the more realistic-looking Blade Runner. Odd. Other rip-off, er, homages are a flying bike chase sequence straight out of Return of the Jedi. Though a scene where Hershey (Diane Lane) saves Stallone from falling by telling him to "take my hand" is a nice spoof of Cliffhanger.

Stallone makes his first appearance as Dredd with the musical cues and iconography hopelessly indebted to the Terminator. He then proceeds to tell us that he's in no danger standing in the street as the criminals firing on him from a tower block are using weapons that are non-lethal from their range. This is strange, as less than two and a quarter minutes earlier we had seen one of said weapons killing a civilian from the same distance. I mean, if a movie can't maintain continuity over a three minute period then what sort of confidence can you have in it?

Maybe part of the reason I dislike the film so much is Stallone. I've always had a great deal of time for Sylvester, and feel he's extremely underrated as an actor. However, at this time the sheer number of cursory action roles he was playing were dampening his reputation. Particularly as the action roles were not the equal of those given to an "actor" with infinitely less talent, Arnold Schwarzenegger. There was also an interview printed around the time where Sylvester gave a great number of right-wing views, and also laughably claimed that he'd read Homer to study for the role of Dredd. Maybe it was Homer Simpson. However, I've since told myself that the publication probably made it all up, and a reputable publication, Empire magazine, conducted an interview with the star in 1998. When asked if there were any film he would want to apologise for, he apologised for not really applying himself to Dredd and claimed that the film could have been "a great satirical farce". His dislike of Danny Cannon's methods also led him to suggest that Terry Gilliam would have been a better director for the movie. So at least Stallone is humble enough to admit his mistakes. Pre-Dredd we got a boastful, posturing actor - post-Dredd he said "sorry". In a way that kind of makes it okay. Because Judge Dredd is Stallone's worst acting role bar none. Wooden, wearied and with awful diction, he seems most ill at ease when playing opposite Max Von Sydow. Maybe he was intimidated by Sydow's status, or maybe his stories of Cannon shouting "Fear me! Just fear me!" had led him to be frightened away from anything approaching a performance.

Rob Schneider's irritating Fergie is only there for comic relief, though he's hardly comic and the only relief comes when he leaves a scene. His sole saving grace is to prick Stallone's ego with a cracking mickey-take of his "I am the law!" What really worries is the transparent formula of the piece. The whole structure of Dredd is virtually identical to the far superior Demolition Man. (Schneider was lame comic relief in that, too). There are the political machinations that spring a villain from jail to aid in a plot, and also a whole series of defrosting baddies. Except the clones in the fridge never do anything, making this element doubly fatuous.

One thing that I did find disturbing at this stage in cinema history was the worrying predilection for violence against women used as titillation. Tia Carrera's sole purpose in the boorish "True Lies" was to be beaten and slapped in the face by Art Malik. Worst manifestation of this was Jamie Lee Curtis turning her wedding ring inside out before slapping her face. Seeing a woman's face being slashed open by another woman who is supposedly the heroine is not a positive message. That this scene went by without warranting any moral implication and was there merely to arouse the audience is deplorable. This is thankfully softened for Dredd, though in her battle with Hershey, the similarly-Asian Joanna Miles does take the unusual step of trying to kick her in the crotch. Hershey eventually wins, though; proving Hollywood likes to see Caucasians beating up on token minorities.

Films like Dredd are patronising to an audience. They are dumb, conveyor-belt movies that are produced to earn money and have no artistic merit whatsoever. The plot points and the emotional journeys work to an equated rule, so that they ultimately become hollow and artificial; while the "romantic interest" is merely a quota to be fulfilled in order to satisfy a demographic. I don't like going to the cinema and being told I'm stupid by a lame film. I don't like seeing a film that makes you think "I could do better than this" - even with the acting. And I don't like Judge Dredd. As a film it contains no content that engages the mind and is merely a series of witless set pieces. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy a good no-brainer, if presented well. When shot with an element of pretension - such as Stallone failing to emote in front of a statue while what sounds like the full Hallelujah chorus plays in the background - it becomes silly and overwrought. To be honest, the film's elements are so unengaging there really is little to actually review. So why did I bother? Well, I just wanted to get it off my chest.


Review by The_Movie_Cat from the Internet Movie Database.

 

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