Judge Dredd (1995)

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*. This is a movie I don’t want to spend a whole lot of time on. Not because it stinks, but because it’s so generic there’s nothing to say. Even the story plays like a repeat of Demolition Man (1993), and that wasn’t worth saying much about either.
*. Sylvester Stallone is the human action figure, dressed up like Sgt. Pepper and walking with a painful strut and arms-akimbo motion that looks like he might actually be a model made out of some stiff material being filmed in stop motion.
*. The comic-book character of Judge Dredd is one of a long line of moviedom’s legal enforcers. Pauline Kael famously expressed concerns about the fascistic tendencies inherent in Dirty Harry, but Eastwood’s maverick cop was soon eclipsed in the sudden-and-violent justice sweepstakes by RoboCop and Judge Joseph Dredd. As mechanical (or mechanical-seeming) embodiments of the law they provide a satire on taking retribution too far, but in the end we’re on their side. They have no time for technicalities or extenuating circumstances. The law is the law, and they are not its representatives but its embodiment.
*. The look and style is Paul Verhoeven, with the now obligatory borrowing of Blade Runner‘s neon and rain-slick streets. Renny Harlin and Richard Donner were first choices to direct. Schwarzenegger was considered to star. These names are all interchangeable. Oddly enough, the Coen brothers were also offered the job but turned it down to make Fargo.
*. Fan boys were upset because Dredd shows his face, which he doesn’t do in the comic book. This is a bind producers put themselves in when adapting such material. I don’t think they should give a damn what the fan base thinks, but then that is the built-in audience.
*. I know bigger is always better, but that giant composite weapon Dredd has, clearly the BFG (Big Fucking Gun) from the Doom videogame, is as big as he is!

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*. There were conflicts between Stallone and director Danny Cannon about the right tone to take. Stallone wanted it to play more as comedy, while Cannon wanted something darker and more violent. Again, this was a line that they needed a Verhoeven to walk. Here they fell on their faces.
*. Has there ever been as useless and unfunny a sidekick as Rob Schneider’s Fergie?
*. The script has a decent premise, but it’s poorly written. All the tag lines are dreadful. Stallone’s “I knew you’d say that” is introduced, awkwardly, a bunch of times at the beginning but then nothing much is done with it. Just before Hershey kills her adversary she is called a bitch, to which she responds “Judge bitch!” When Dredd tosses Rico from the Statue of Liberty after his own Saboteur-style dangling he says “Court’s adjourned.” That’s awful. I don’t even get it. Is Rico being given an adjournment or sent to his death?
*. I do like that giant old-school battlebot that Rico brings back to life, but if it’s so darn effective why don’t the police use more of them?
*. It’s not a terrible movie. If you’re not picky, or too hooked on the comic book, you can still enjoy parts of it. But it’s very much the tail-end of the SF-action-blockbuster genre of the time, which is to say right before CGI moved in and made this kind of movie the equivalent of a silent film or something shot in black-and-white. I don’t mind the movies of this earlier dispensation, indeed in some ways I prefer them to what came after, but there are many better such films than Judge Dredd to re-watch.

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