Judge Dredd (1995) (part 1 of 2)
With the new Judge Dredd movie starring Karl Urban coming out soon, I thought now would be as good a time as any to take a look at the first time this character was brought to the silver screen. Strap in, folks, because Sylvester Stallone is Judge Dredd!
The character was created in 1977 for a British comic anthology called 2000 A.D., and has proven to be its longest running storyline. In the comic, Dredd is the ultimate law enforcement officer in a dystopian future, where the people have been moved to “Mega-Cities”, and cops act as judge, jury, and executioner.
The character proved to be fairly popular, even getting a few crossover comics with Batman, as well as our feature today.
In 1995, a big budget movie was put together, and crapped out in the summer, starring Sylvester Stallone, Max von Sydow, Armand Assante, Rob Schneider, Joan Chen, and Diane Lane. It was, to put it mildly, rather disappointing, as its many fans felt it didn’t really reflect the somewhat satirical edge the comic had, and to be fair, after the first few minutes, it does sort of turn into just another Sylvester Stallone movie.
The plot is fairly basic, as we follow Dredd as he’s framed for murder by his cloned brother Rico (Assante) and exiled. He teams up with Rob Schneider (maybe the only time Rob has ever been in a decent movie), and has to fight to clear his name, and stop Rico from creating a bunch of cloned judges that will help him wreak havoc on the general populace, or something along those lines.
I give this one 8 out of 10 Swiss Army Guns. Let’s check it out.
First off, I have to say that for the most part, Stallone makes a pretty damn good Judge Dredd.
Yes, he does take his helmet off, but let’s be realistic. No major studio in 1995 would sign off on a Sylvester Stallone movie where he only shows the lower half of his face for 90 minutes.
The fact that Urban in the reboot will probably keep the helmet on the entire time says more about the studio making it, and the attitude towards comic book movies than anything else.
Stallone is still good in the role. Basically, the character has to be a no-nonsense law and order type, with little in the way of emotions, and not much of a sense of humor. Jesus, the only other guy in 1995 I could see playing the role with any degree of success would be Dolph Lundgren, and I sort of doubt he would have gotten the nod.
The rest of the main cast is good as well. We get typically solid jobs from Jurgen Prochnow and Max von Sydow, Diane Lane does what she can with the underwritten role of Judge Hershey, and to my utter shock, Rob Schneider actually manages to be somewhat likable. Of course, that probably says more about how bad every single thing he’s done other than this is, than how good Judge Dredd is.
I’m dead serious, Schneider comes off pretty well here, with some funny moments, which is impressive when you consider pretty much every other thing he’s done is utter mirthless crap of the lowest order.
The real gem, though, is Armand Assante as Rico. Assante is a terrific actor and he really goes for the gusto here, with an amazingly over the top performance.
He sneers, he hisses, and dear lord, every time Assante says the word “law”, he goes to a rather guttural region of his throat that generates a line reading that’s simply hysterical.
The Production Design:
For any movie set in the future, the key thing that helps the audience believe they’re seeing something tangible is the production design. In order to suspend your disbelief, you need to believe the world you’re viewing exists, and a complex, detailed bit of production design work is usually the most vital element.
Here, we get a lavishly screwed up, cluttered future, with steam and debris. Sure, it takes a few visual cues from Blade Runner, but quite honestly, it’s easier to pick out the movies that don’t crib from that movie than identifying the ones that do.
The film has a nice, big comic book feel to it, which is utterly appropriate, given the source material. There’s a little cheese here and there, with some decently over the top elements, mainly Dredd’s service pistol, which could be accurately described as a Swiss Army Gun.
This thing is hilariously awesome, with more settings on it than any cop truly needs, and a handprint signature feature that factors into the plot.
Alan Silvestri delivers a thunderous main theme for this movie, and in general does a very good action score. I think by this point, we should expect nothing less from the man. He knows his craft.
The Angel Gang:
I admit it, when it comes to post-apocalyptic sci-fi, the easiest way to get me on your side is to have some weird, psychotic mutated Jesus freaks running around. Especially when one of them is a one armed cyborg with a remote control shoved into his head that controls his temper.
The ABC Robot:
I also dig any movie that has a huge lumbering robot assist the villain. This particular robot is a very nicely done bit of special effects wizardry.