Starring Sylvester Stallone, Armand Assante, Rob Schneider, Jürgen Prochnow, Max von Sydow, Diane Lane, Joanna Miles, Joan Chen, Balthazar Getty, Maurice Roëves, Ian Dury
Directed by Danny Cannon
Expectations: Really low. I remember this being pretty awful.
On the general scale:
On the B-movie scale:
In the Third Millennium, the world changed. Climate. Nations. All were in upheaval… The Earth transformed into a poisonous scorched desert, known as “The Cursed Earth.” Millions of people crowded into a few Mega Cities where roving bands of street savages created violence the justice system could not control. Law as we know it collapsed. From the decay rose a new order. A society ruled by a new elite force… a force with the power to dispense both justice and punishment… They were the police, jury and executioner all in one. …They were the Judges.
You pumped? Seriously, this movie has so much going for it. Of course, there’s one of my all-time favorite action stars, Sylvester Stallone, cranking out all kinds of awesome crooked mouth yells. It also has dope robots, a cyborg who’s a member of a hillbilly desert cannibal family, and massive explosions. And let’s not forget about the kick-ass, flying future cycles, the cloning (and the incredible half-cloned, skinless dudes!) and Jurgen Prochnow’s German accent. And the villain’s name is Rico! C’mon! Judge Dredd is a perfect big-budget B-Movie. I know this isn’t a position many will agree with or defend, but I can’t help it if I like this kind of dumb stuff, can I?
Judge Dredd does have a fairly interesting story through all the clichéd dialogue. It moves pretty quick too, going through a series of events that leads to our hero locked up by his own police force! Stallone can’t catch a break, he’s always getting persecuted or wrongly accused in his movies. But don’t count out Judge Dredd just yet; the film ain’t over until he says, “Court adjourned.” The plot may not be anything fresh, but it’s a fun ride if you just go with it. And if you’re having a hard time just going with it, I suggest re-reading the 2nd paragraph. If you can’t find a couple of things to like in there, then I can’t help you. All movies aren’t meant for everyone, and this is clearly not your movie.
Visually, Judge Dredd is a very nice looking dumb film. The judge costumes could definitely use some work, but everything else looks suitably futuristic in a mid-’90s kind of way. The filmmakers chose to go full-force into the sci-fi aspect of the story, bringing Mega-City One to the screen as something of a marriage between the future noir of Blade Runner and the future whimsy of Back to the Future: The Ride. Outside the city is the desert wasteland called the Cursed Earth, which looks as awesome as it sounds. They also tease us with just a hint of an Aspen Penal Colony, but they couldn’t possibly have sandwiched a dope future prison scene into this movie. There’s only so much awesome that one movie can contain.
The FX are a mix of practical and early CG, and they look extremely convincing. This originally came out at a time when I had become snobbish about “shitty modern movies” so I disregarded it at the time, and only begrudgingly watched it with crossed arms and a scowl. Now — obviously — things have changed and I can appreciate the awesome FX and explosions on display throughout Judge Dredd. They clearly spent a good amount of money making this movie look like a broken-down future, and it looks great. The future chase through the skies of Mega-City One was a highlight, but my favorite FX bits were the makeup work on the hillbilly cyborg. His metal skeletal system shows through tears in his skin, and cybernetic implants run all down his spine. He looks seamless and incredible, and if he were in a movie that was better received there’s no doubt he’d make all kinds of “Top 10 Cyborgs” and “The Best Hillbilly Cannibals in Film” lists throughout the blogosphere.
Special note must also be made of the acting. It would be easy to argue both sides of the spectrum on the acting. It is incredibly over-the-top, loud, abrasive acting. But it is these specific qualities — coupled with the clichéd lines — that make the acting so enjoyable to me. There’s just something about people in their most serious voices saying clichéd shit like, “Chief Justice, the city is in chaos!” and “Justice Griffin, this trial has been a farce!” that makes me smile. I can’t explain it. It’s the kind of stuff that seems to make others groan, but for some reason I just laugh it off in the name of fun, as long the movie at hand is delivering on that aspect enough for me to not care. And Judge Dredd was doing that in spades.
The mixed tone of the film might have been a big reason why this one didn’t resonate with a lot of people, though. At times it’s violent and brutal, at others Rob Schneider is cracking fourth-wall-breaking jokes about Stallone’s thick accent. It flips between the two pretty liberally, too. I don’t know, and I can’t begin to truly understand why someone else doesn’t like a specific movie anymore than I can fly like Superman. I have a suspicion that the 2012 version of the character won’t feature any humor at all, or very minor humor, and therefore I’ll have less fun with it. We’ll see. I can’t say that it was a good idea to have a comedic sidekick alongside Judge Dredd, but Rob Schneider does have some good moments and I liked him overall. In any case, it was fun to see a movie like this with a sense of humor, even one that wasn’t firing on all cylinders.
What more can I say, I thoroughly enjoyed Judge Dredd. I say that as a huge fan of Stallone and B-Movies, and as one that initially hated the film upon its original release. I know nothing of the comic character, so I have no inborn nerd bias against whatever the film did or didn’t do right. All I can do is call it like I see it, and as I see it Judge Dredd is one hell of a big-budget B-Movie. Give it another shot.
Tomorrow make sure you come back for my review of the 2012 film, Dredd! Can it stack up to Stallone’s awesome crooked mouth yells? I’ll be the judge of that!