Judge Dredd 1995
I’ve been wanting to watch this movie for a while, ever since I watched the Judge Minty short even though I know it’s a far cry from the more serious tone of both the short and the recent Dredd movie with Karl Urban. What really made me want to watch it was watching Demolition Man which also starred Sylvester Stallone and had Rob Schneider in a small role, so I wanted to watch this movie with the small thought in mind that this is a future that takes place after Demolition Man, and in a lot of ways there are some similarities, but this is a very different movie than Demolition Man. I also went into this thinking that it was going to be a very bad schlockfest with Schneider hamming it up and Stallone giving a bad performance, and yet it’s not that nearly as much as I expected it to be. It’s actually a relatively good movie, but it has a poor script that doesn’t make good use of the characters, and it’s also notable for breaking one of the only things that I know about Judge Dredd the comic character: he never takes off his helmet, and yet Stallone takes his helmet off a mere 15 minutes into the movie and doesn’t put it back on again until the very end.
One thing that surprised me the most about this movie was Stallone’s performance. Yes, there are several moments with him doing his cheesy one liners in his very Stallone drawling yell, but for the most part he actually does a very stoic performance fitting what I’ve heard about Dredd’s character. While he does open up with the iconic “I am the law!” and has an annoying pseudo-catchphrase that doesn’t work for me at all “I knew you were going to say that”. Not to mention the whole “double whammy” ammo from his lawgiver gun. But aside from those moments, he handled the action well and I enjoyed him quite a bit as Judge Dredd in this movie.
The biggest problem with this movie comes from the script, and also Rob Schneider’s character, Herman. The movie opens with this schlub of a character being released from prison after a 6 month sentence so it’s kind of through his eyes that we are introduced to the world of Mega City, an ultra-giant bustling metropolis that’s supposedly the size of the state of New York, or maybe a bit less, they’re not entirely clear on that. But it does have flying cars and a skyline full of skyscrapers that dwarf the Statue of Liberty tucked right in the middle of it all. Crime is rampant and that’s shown in part by Herman returning to his apartment, or his newly rented one, whatever, and find it being occupied by random violent criminals. We eventually find out that he is a criminal hacker known for tampering with service drones, and yet throughout the entire movie the extent of his “hacking” skills consists of him hiding inside a recycled food drone and ripping out wires of an attack robot. Later in the movie, though a fortunate coincidence, he is a lone survivor of a prison transport crash alongside Dredd. I can understand him teaming up with Dredd out in the “Cursed Earth” outside of the city, but I don’t understand why he continues to help once they are safely back in the city. He’s supposedly the comic relief and yet he makes very few jokes, he isn’t really all that helpful, and there’s also the brief concept that Dredd mistakenly judges his initial escape at the beginning of the movie as a repeat offense punishable by 5 years is barely even addressed.
The other problem the script has is that it doesn’t really know how to set up the conceit of the villain, and it surprised me that this part was actually taken from the comics because it’s the part that I thought sounded too ludicrous. Basically the Judge system wanted to create perfect judges so they used the DNA from the highest ranks of the system to create two super soldiers: Dredd & Rico. Dredd became the perfect Judge that they wanted, but Rico “was genetically mutated into the perfect criminal”. It’s not actually a bad concept, but it’s just the way that it’s presented in the script through clunky dialogue makes it sound idiotic. Armand Assanti, who looks nothing like Stallone despite what one of the character’s say and the fact that they’re supposed to have the same DNA, plays the villain like just a random wild eyed psycho rather than the “perfect criminal” that he’s supposed to be. There are very few instances in this movie where we get to see his criminal intellect come to play, instead we just see him and his pet robot shoot a bunch of people.
I do have to stop for a moment to address the robot, while many of the special effects in this movie don’t hold up well at all, especially the hoverbike chase. But I love the design and the use of the giant war robot. It was honestly the highlight of the movie and I loved every scene it was in. I also quite enjoyed the design on the cyborg mutant cannibal from the family that shoots down the prison transport. It made me wish there was more of a subplot involving the Cursed Earth mutants or the war robots. The look of the Judge’s outfits is also quite good, looking very shiny and stately using the talents of Georgio Armani. They are overly elaborate and way too clean, but I thought that fit with the concept of the movie.
I also wanted to address Dredd’s kind of partner/friend/love interest Judge Hershey played by Diane Lane (who would later go on to play Ma Kent in this summer’s Man of Steel, FYI), while I did like her character overall, I really disliked her motivations and place in the script. She was way too pushy in trying to force her friendship onto Dredd. There wasn’t really a whole lot of chemistry, it just felt like a forced relationship that was all on her side. But aside from the relationship angle, I did like her as a character, she was a much more reasonable judge and helped to contrast against Dredd’s strictness in the scenes when they were together. In the end, I thought the action held up and most of the characters were well developed, they just had poor dialogue to work with. The movie isn’t a great one, but it’s not the horrible movie I expected it to be. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.