Striking Dredd in the Judge's Fans
Released in 1995 "Judge Dredd" is not your typical big screen adaptation of a comic book character, or at least not in the sense of the sort of movies which have steadily filled the cinemas in more recent years. No "Judge Dredd" is first and fore mostly a Sylvester Stallone movie, allowing him to flex his muscles, make a few wise ass quips whilst cashing in on the popularity of the iconic comic book character. There lies an issue as this is not an authentic adaptation, with elements of Judge Dredd's character changed, ideas from other movies drawn upon and a general uneasy balance of action, comedy as well as a little drama which doesn't always work.
In the third millennium there are no more lawyers or trials, instead criminals are sentenced on the spot by the Street Judges, with the most fearsome of them being Judge Dredd (Sylvester Stallone - The Specialist) who causes dread when ever his name is mentioned. But the law which Dredd holds so dear now becomes his enemy when a corrupt system frames him for a murder. With the aid of small time criminal Fergie (Rob Schneider - Home Alone 2) and fellow Judge Hershey (Diane Lane - Indian Summer), Dredd must fight to prove his innocence and save Mega City from his enemy Rico (Armand Assante - Private Benjamin).
Despite an opportunity to deliver an interesting movie about political corruption and the power of the authority, which is sort of what they tried to do but failed, what we ended up getting is a no brainer futuristic action romp. There are attempts to develop a storyline which revolves around corrupt judges but it really pales into insignificance as "Judge Dredd" falls back on over the top action scenes, corny dialogue and humour to carry the movie. There lies one of the issues as although there is what should be an interesting storyline which delivers atmosphere "Judge Dredd" feels very uneasy with the often interjection of humour. It needed to be one thing or another either a serious adaptation full of darkness or an all out comedy instead of residing in between, rather a little too uneasily.
There is no denying that the future world created is visually impressive and combined with Stallone's trademark action "Judge Dredd" is a fun, energetic, semi violent action romp. But it does feel very cliche with various scenes feeling far too similar to what we have seen Stallone do before but then if that's what people want then it delivers. In many ways "Judge Dredd" is a movie in the same manner of "Demolition Man" and will appeal to those who enjoy Stallone basically bulldozing his way through various scenes.
But there really isn't much more to it than that, it has a lot of poor cliche dialogue and the over use of "I knew you'd say that" becomes grating by the time it is finally uttered for the last time. Plus the poor attempt to give the movie a semi-romantic element between Judge Dredd and Judge Hershey fails because it is so underplayed it becomes lost in all the action turmoil.
As for the performances well I have to admit that I enjoy Stallone in these sorts of movies, it is where he seems to excel. Ignoring the fact that Stallone breaks with tradition by removing Dredd's helmet it is a good performance and I honestly believe that for the time this was made there was no one better to play the role. Even the corny dialogue is not so offensive when Stallone delivers it even the over used "I am the law". But the trouble is that it feels like an isolated performance and so the chemistry with the other stars is never present. Diane Lane who looks wonderful as Judge Hershey just doesn't gel with Stallone and the same can be said of Rob Schneider who plays convict Fergie who ends up being Dredd's comedy side kick. It sometimes feels not so much of "I am the Law" but more "I am the Star" as the chemistry is so lacking.
The only actors who really manage to make an impact is Max Von Sydow as Judge Fargo and Armand Assante as Rico. Don't get me wrong as they are not their finest performances but are the ones which you are most likely going to remember once "Judge Dredd" finishes.
What this all boils down to is that I doubt fans of Judge Dredd the comic book character will rate "Judge Dredd" the movie that highly but those who like Stallone and enjoyed his futuristic exploits in "Demolition Man" will more than likely enjoy the OTT action on show. In many ways it is a waste of a few good ideas for a much darker movie spoilt by the humour which makes it just another throw away action movie. But then it is what it is a fun Stallone action romp, typical of many of his movies from the mid 90s.