The Judge Dredd Films – Part 1 of 2: Judge Dredd (1995)

In 1987 Paul Verhoeven made an excellent Judge Dredd film. For some strange reason he called it Robocop… but there you go.

Yet Producer Edward R Pressman, writers William Wisher Jr and Steven E de Souza obviously thought they could do a better job. So hiring Danny Cannon as director and Sylvester Stallone as star they made….

THIS. 

It’s sort of funny how this film starts. A title sequence that shows us the covers of some classic issues of 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine. Why’s that funny? Maybe it’s because the following film completely SHITS all over them. And uses whatever’s leftover to wipe it’s ass with. 

It’s the late 21st Century. The majority of the planet is an irradiated wasteland known as “The Cursed Earth”. What’s left of “civilised” society live in sprawling walled off “Mega Cities”. Dystopian metropolis’ that are home to hundreds of millions of people. Crime is rampant.

That’s where The Judges come in. Created to replace the Police – they are Judge, Jury and Executioner all rolled in to one. Justice is swift, merciless and dispensed instantly on the streets.

The most feared and respected is Judge Joseph Dredd. In Mega City One he is the most legendary law enforcer.

Former Judge turned hardened criminal Rico has escaped from prison. Working for the corrupt Judge Griffin who wants to gain control. Rico’s orders are to cause chaos on the streets. To do that effectively they need Dredd out of the way.

So they frame him for the murder of a journalist known to be critical of his methods. Dredd is found guilty and stripped of his rank. Only avoiding the death sentence thanks to his tireless and dedicated service over the years.

He’s sentenced to life in the Aspen penal colony but when the aircraft carrying him there is shot down from the skies of the Cursed Earth – he must get back to Mega City One to stop Rico. He must also expose the conspiracy and prove his innocence. His only help is Herman “Fergie” Ferguson, a former criminal who Dredd himself had arrested.

Dredd is about to get more than he bargained for. During the course of his adventure he’ll find out all about his own origin and his troubling link to Rico.

Never before have I seen a film get it’s subject matter so WOEFULLY WRONG!!! This is more than a simply shitty adaptation – it’s a fucking insult!

Director Danny Cannon claimed to be a huge fan of the original comics but there is no evidence in this film to back up his claim. It’s like this movie was made by someone who HATES the comics. It’s so bad it’s like they fucked it up on purpose!

It’s great to see Max Von Sydow in anything but his character Chief Justice Fargo shouldn’t be in the film! His career ended DECADES before Dredd’s started in the comics so his inclusion here is utterly baffling. I suppose seeing him carry a gun the size of a small child has some novelty value… but still.

Then there is the utterly discombobulating decision to include Hammerstein from ABC Warriors. Yeah – OK that strip was in 2000AD but it’s not in the same universe as Judge Dredd. 

Unbelievable!

The film only gets TWO things right. The Angel Family and the look of Mega City One (nice futuristic production design on that). Yet it’s only in a “stopped clock gives the right time twice a day” way.

Other than that – it is a COLOSSAL failure in every other way conceivable. The action scenes aren’t exciting, the funny scenes aren’t funny – and the huge budget and (mostly) excellent cast are utterly wasted.

Armand Assante is Rico. He’s so bad it’s almost worth seeing the movie for. It’s surprising we can understand his dialogue with all the scenery he’s chewing. It’s obvious he’s having fun with it but sadly he doesn’t let us in on the joke. It’s embarrassing to watch. There’s less ham on a fuckin’ pig farm!

Jurgen Prochnow and Joan Chen do nothing but stand around looking shifty and Diane Lane has the most thankless role in the entire film as Judge Hershey. She looks genuinely distressed at the thought of being in this piece of shit.

The biting and satirical humour of the comic is completely absent. Instead we have Rob Schneider providing the “humour” as Dredd’s “comedy” sidekick. You want toilet humour and trouser pissing jokes? You got it! NO! YOU CAN’T HAVE A RAZOR BLADE AND A NOOSE!!! NOW STOP ASKING!!!

Of course there’s the main man himself. Sylvester Stallone as Judge Dredd. Now. I LOVE Stallone. I really do. He’s one of my favourite actors and I’ve grown up watching his movies – but he couldn’t be any more wrong for this if he tried (and at times I wonder if he did).

Hearing him say the classic Dredd line “I AM THE LAW” is just tragic.

Dredd ain’t supposed to be played by a movie star. He’s famous in the comics for never having shown his face. The helmet doesn’t come off at all. 40 years of publishing history and we still don’t know what he looks like under that monolithic visor. There’s a good reason for that. He’s supposed to be the embodiment of faceless justice.

Yet you can’t have a guy like Stallone in a film and not show his face can you? No. After the first action scene the helmet comes off and we rarely see him wearing it again throughout the majority of the film’s run time. It’s not Judge Dredd! It’s just Stallone running around shooting things whilst wearing a dirty shirt! I can readily imagine hardened 2000AD fans actually wanting to throw their own excrement at the cinema screen!

I wouldn’t have minded it so much if it was taken from him against his will when he’s sentenced to prison. Maybe even revealing a big gnarly scar across his face and we find out THAT is why he always refused to take off the mask! I could’ve lived with that!

Yet having him remove it himself willingly?!? That is a sin for which this movie just cannot be forgiven.

I mean – for fuck’s sake… he’s not even wearing it on the cover of the blu ray!

Other things bug me too. Every cheesy cliche’ you can think of is horrendously abused. Lightning striking when startling revelations are made… the flying machine that engineers cannot repair despite their expertise and technical skill – but Dredd gets it to work by simply punching the console? Really? That gag was about a hundred years too old when they made this piece of shit 22 years ago!

And another thing! When Dredd and Fergie get back to Mega City One they’re being chased right? Chased by special elite troopers wearing black armour who are specially put together for the purpose of tracking down rogue Judges.

Judge Dredd kills them. Shoots them, causes their flying motorbikes to explode, and sends one of the poor bastards plummeting to their instant death.

ISN’T HE KILLING HIS FORMER COLLEAGUES?!?! THEY’RE JUDGES TOO!!! THEY AREN’T BAD GUYS AT ALL!!! HE’S TRYING TO PROVE HIS INNOCENCE BUT MURDERING OTHER JUDGES WHILST FUCKING DOING IT!!! 

THEY’RE ONLY DOING THEIR JOB!!!! 

I have ALWAYS had a problem with that! And I’ve NEVER seen anyone else point that out in a review of this film, EVER!!!

The costumes designed by Gianni Versaci (WTF?!?) look painfully unsuitable to wear whilst practising law enforcement and make those who wear them look like giant walking action figures. Arnold Schwarzenegger looked more convincing as Turbo Man at the end of Jingle All The Way

Judge Dredd is one of the worst films I have ever seen and is an utter embarrassment to all involved.

The Man Who Saved Movies. I Knew You’d Say That! 

 

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  • jackcolton

    I’ve never seen this. I never had any familiarity with Dredd before the film was released, the reviews were terrible and I thought Sly looked and sounded ridiculous, that moment in the trailer has stuck to my therwise healthy brain for an eternity ‘I DIDNT BREAK THE LAW … I AM THE LAW’ and besides, in the summer of 95 I was more interested in Die Hard with a vengeance and Batman Forever (I was disappointed in both)

    I did see Karl Urbans Dredd though … TBC …

    • Be back in 48 hours! ?

      • jackcolton

        a possible title for a 3rd entry in the series.

      • President of what?

        Yes, and I’ll be waiting for that review!!

  • This is one of the finest movies I have ever had the pleasure of watching. It’s an adventure on the scale of Raiders of the Lost Ark and ranks up there with Stallone’s finest, such as Rocky and First Blood. Sorry bro, but your review is completely off-base.
    Just kidding; 🙂 I’ve seen this movie once, on VHS, a long time ago. I didn’t like it, mostly because Rob Schneider’s career was just getting started and he was already annoying. I seem to remember Armand Assante had some giant robot with red eyes, I thought that was pretty cool, the way it moved, but aside from that I don’t remember much. Mercifully, it would seem, after reading this review.

  • Dee-abolik

    Yeah, even without having read the comic it was obvious that the potential was spoiled. It’s one of those typical old school comic adaptations that tease greatness which never happens. You see the cool robot and think it will have its great action scene, but nope. That was just symptomatic for any somewhat interesting element in this movie. Why the hell does Sly wear blue contact lenses? Why is Rico his clone but looks completely different? Things I liked: the look (apart from the silly uniforms- guess they wanted to rival Batman Forever in terms of codpieces), the robot, Diane Lane’s tight pants and her catfight with Joan Chen.

    • Rico is Dredd’s brother, not a clone. But I get what you mean.

      • Dee-abolik

        Yeah but isn’t it implied that their DNA is identical? That’s the way he could be framed for the murders, right?

      • But Dredd is a clone, no? So his brother must be.

  • I_am_better

    Couldn’t have said it better myself

  • jackcolton

    So Dredd kills his own ppl in during his efforts to prove his innocence? that’s like Dr Richard Kimble killing Gerrard and his team of U.S Marshalls during his efforts to prove his innocence. dumb!

  • Dee-abolik

    Another wonderful scene is that when that IT guy uncovers that Dredd’s childhood photo is a fake….and the original photo is still underneath.

  • God, what a case of Hollywood executives messing up a project. I personally thought the robot was one of the few things that was pretty cool about Judge Dredd, even if not strictly canon. I say ‘things’, I think it was the only thing. Rob Schneider, incredibly, has never not been an annoying, unfunny douche. It’s not like his act got stale; there’s literally no reason to have ever found him funny. I can only imagine Stallone loved him, in the same way Stallone is probably the guy who chose to keep that joke about wiping your arse in Demolition Man, and made sure he got a job on the film. Sure, you can argue that removing the helmet’s a big part of it, but another cast and director could have made that work. That said, I remember next to nothing of the specific of this film, other than it should have been fun but it was really boring.

  • President of what?

    Stu’s review echoed practically the same sentiments I have about this trainwreck. I knew there was a problem with this film–as in Stallanoe’s ego!! I love how the teaser trailer with an exceptional score courtesy of Jerry Goldsmith FOOLED me into thinking this would be a hit adaptation, man was I wrong!

    https://youtu.be/h6quvojO664

    • jackcolton

      I remember Stallones movie career hit quite a slump after this didn’t it, it wasn’t exactly rosy before hand either… the Specialist flopped, assassins flopped, daylight flopped soon after, Copland brought him back some acclaim but it was shortlived, Get Carter, Driven, DTox, Avenging Angelo and Spy kids 3 followed. it wasn’t really until Rocky Balboa in 2006 that things turned again.

      • President of what?

        I like how Sly blamed Danny Cannon for Dredd (s)tanking. LOL
        Never seen Dtox, Driven or Angelo, but Get Carter was okay but nowhere as good as Gibson’s Payback.

        • jackcolton

          what I don’t understand about Sly is his hellbent desire to keep churning out those horrible expendable movies. It’s like he learned nothing from his past mistakes. he’s better than that, as Creed recently proved.

          • Stallone is one of those guys who creates opportunities for himself. When he does that he usually strikes gold. It’s when he’s working for others that things usually go wrong.

          • jackcolton

            yeah I think your right. although he created the expendable movies and I felt they grew old after part 1.

          • Never really liked any of those yet for some odd reason I went to watch all three. And I’ll more than likely go see part four.

          • jackcolton

            you didn’t like any of them but you’ll pay to watch them?

          • It’s like cinematic Stockholm Syndrome.

          • President of what?

            I guess Sly’s gotta eat! X)

            I loathed the Expendables beacause its was him stroking his fragile ego, all the heroes live at the end (Why were they called “Expendables” again??) and him taking on JCVD in the second movie was bullshit!! The 3rd one is the absolute worst! PG-13 and even Wesly Snipes, Harrison Ford or Mad Melly Mel couldn’t save that shit! No wonder why Bruce Willis stepped out of the third! He wised the fuck up, finally! “Bullet to the head, Escape Plan and Grudge match” had potentital but it was a matter of too little, too late.

            His role in Creed was excellent, but his ego again, got the better of him. He was not humble after winning all those awards. Didn’t even thank Coogler? WTF!

          • jackcolton

            I think Willis stepped down from Expendables 3 because he wasn’t getting the fee he wanted .. greedy and lazy as Sly called it at the time, and judging by Bruces recent CV, that dude stopped caring about quality a long time ago.

          • President of what?

            LMMFAO I guess Paramount paid him a truckload of money for GIJoe Retaliation which you know, tanked at the box office. X)

          • jackcolton

            I’ve barely liked anything Willis has churned out since 16 blocks. he actually acted in that one. where is that guy now.

          • President of what?

            Well, he was somewhat legit in RED but yeah, he got lazier by the year.
            Fucker still buying into his “Bruno” bs by playing a harmonica at some fundraiser. #Sad.

          • jackcolton

            obviously I’ve never met the guy, but from what I’ve seen and heard I have little respect for him. firstly, he seems to not care anymore about showing up and ‘acting’ there are exceptions (Unbreakable, Hostage, 16 blocks, Looper, Moonrise Kingdom) but in the last 10yrs he’s made some utter crap that have relied on him merely showing up, smirking and delivering lines in that monotone sleepy way that he does.

            His biggest crime is what he’s done to the Die Hard franchise. Part 4 was bad enough but part 5 was soooo bad, I actually fast forwarded parts of it. And Bruce seems to have forgotten who the character is. The McClane of parts 1 to 3 doesn’t bear much resemblance to the McClane of 4 and 5. for such a loved character, that is unforgivable. he’s ran a once excellent action series into the ground. with the clout that he has on these movies, he should never have signed on for those scripts, or the talent behind the camera.

            Secondly, I believe Kevin Smith when he says Willis was a difficult jerk during and after Copout. Willis is known for being a douche.

            Thirdly, I’ve seen enough Bruce Willis interviews, a lot of which are on you tube, to know he’s a fucking first class dick head!

          • President of what?

            Y’know, I agree with you 100% about him shitting on a once beloved franchise such as Die Hard.
            He shouldve just let it die after the 3rd installment but nooooooo, he got to greedy for his own good!
            Now its official! He’s just another hack like Deniro for cranking out shit films as of recent.

            Shame!

          • I want to see the Bruce Willis of The Fifth Element again. The guy that had the guts to make THOSE kinds of movies. An article about that is on the way FYI, so stay tuned! 🙂

        • Payback is a film I wouldn’t mind seeing again actually.

          • President of what?

            Director’s Cut, highly recommended!!

          • Now THAT I would like to see. Not sure how available it is in the UK though.

          • President of what?

            Well, there’s always..nah, I won’t corrupt ya.?

          • …Amazon? :p

          • jackcolton

            ‘I DIDNT BREAK DA LAW, I AM DA LAW’

      • I do actually really like Stallone. Grew up watching his movies.

        • jackcolton

          same here. I would personally just like to see him stretched more often.

          • I can remember my old man taking me and my brother to see Rocky IV when I was a kid. Ahh… memories.

          • jackcolton

            I’ve not seen many stallone films at the cinema, mostly video or television. I think Rocky balboa was my first. I can’t actually believe that.

          • I have seen LOADS of Stallone at the cinema. Off the top of my head, Rocky IV, Rocky Balboa, Creed, Rambo, Cliffhanger, Demolition Man, Judge Dredd, Daylight, all the Expendables movies, Copland… There are probably more…

          • jackcolton

            I feel ashamed of myself.

          • I’ve never seen an Adam Sandler movie. Does that make you feel better?

          • jackcolton

            I’ve just done a 10 minute meditation so I’m feeling much better thank you. why have you not seen an Adam Sandler movie?

          • Cause I have a strange feeling that watching one would make me want to punch myself in the head.

          • jackcolton

            I see. I’m a bit like that with British soap operas. I can’t stand them.

          • I love Corrie and EastEnders!

          • jackcolton

            Do you have sky tv?

          • Now TV

          • jackcolton

            did you cry out ‘wtf is this shit dad’ when the ‘robot’ was introduced?

    • That trailer music is pretty cool!

      • President of what?

        To most of us geeks, tis a thing of beauty! :^)

        • Alan Silvestri’s score was all wrong for this. Sounds like it belonged in a spoof superhero movie.

          • President of what?

            Well, take in account that the movie itself was a spoof.

          • You know what I mean!

  • Both dredd films mostly missed the satirical nature of the 2000AD books. I always though that if a producer was interested in ruining his career in a blaze of glory, he should give terry Gilliam 200 million dollars and full creative control. That would’ve been fucking awesome. The second one was pretty great, but the tone was obviously The Raid, not 2000AD

    Or Judge Dress with Melissa McCarthy by Paul Feig. Hilarious fascist commentary. With a twist!

    • Disagree on the second one dude. It’s not about the satire it’s about the spirit of the character. The kind of humour the comic goes for couldn’t work on screen. I think the right choices were made.