“I am the law!” So exclaims Judge Dredd in Judge Dredd, probably after someone said, “Dredd” very loudly and he ignored them. It was probably Rob Schneider. He says it a lot.
A one-man judge, jury, and executioner in a post-apocalyptic future where there are only a few, massive “mega cities” crammed with 65 million citizens to protect is a subject ripe for exploration. Can singular entities be entrusted with such responsibility? Will absolute power corrupt absolutely? Is there still racial profiling in the year 3000?
These obviously relevant topics just scratch the surface of what could be covered in Judge Dredd, but the 1995 high budget action flick touches on none of them. It’s much more concerned with creating another franchise for its star, Sylvester Stallone.
Judge Dredd is not your typical franchise, though. The dystopian future presented here in scrolling prose and read by an ominous voiceover is no place for, well, Rob Schneider. Stallone fits in rather well with his angry glare and above-average, eye-bulging anger. A few of his quips don’t work too well—he repeatedly says “I knew you were going to say that” in a failed attempt to establish a new catch phrase—but his stoic attitude functions well through most of the movie.
Sadly, director Danny Cannon and screenwriters William Wisher and Steven E. de Souza don’t bother trying to blend him with their ‘90s comic book vision. This is very much a pre-9/11 comic book adaptation, meaning there’s no drama, no attempt for authenticity, and no dark edge to the script. It’s cheesy, tongue-in-cheek sci-fi based on a concept with none of those traits.
Though I’ve never read the comic book, I can assume from a quick Google search and the 2012 film version of Judge Dredd fans weren’t too happy with this incarnation of their helmeted hero. Yes, this was made in the era of the first two Batman films and only two years after Stallone’s other sci-fi action flick, Demolition Man, which clearly had an influence in casting (Rob Schneider), style (the outfits look remarkably similar), and story (tough as nails cop is wrongly convicted of a crime and must work outside the law to prove his innocence and save his city).
Yet the two films shouldn’t come together—at all. Demolition Man is an action comedy with a heavy emphasis on the comedy. Judge Dredd is a sci-fi action flick with a heavy emphasis on the violent and dark future of a corrupt society. Well, it should have been.
Instead we get a mishmash version of both featuring the comic relief of Rob Schneider as Dredd’s cowardly sidekick and the nonsensical happy ending where everyone other than our hero is still kind of screwed. The comedy isn’t funny enough—what do you expect from Schneider? The action is generic gunfire—Stallone does better with hand-to-hand combat. It just doesn’t work.
Most of you, though, already know this. After all, Judge Dredd is 17 years old, and this isn’t a review of its first home video release but its first Blu-ray edition. I must say, it looks fantastic. The film reportedly cost upwards of $70 million to produce in 1995, and every penny comes across in the towering sets and impressive miniatures. Even the CGI holds up pretty well. The picture is crystal clear and doesn’t appear to be a mere transfer from the DVD. Overall, if you’re going to own the film, you should buy it on Blu-ray. It’s the only way to fully appreciate the best aspect of the film.
It also has one more bonus feature than the DVD edition: a making-of featurette titled, “Stallone’s Law: The Making of Judge Dredd”. Clocking in at 20 minutes, the bonus feature covers just about every aspect of the filmmaking process including cast and crew interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and a very special host—Sylvester Stallone. It’s in standard definition, so it’s not perfect, but I can’t imagine fans wanting to know much more about the production. It may infuriate fans of the comic book, though, considering it shows Stallone making belittling remarks about the difference between comics and action films.
The only other bonus feature is a theatrical trailer, which was included on the DVD. There could clearly be more, but I can’t imagine too many people are clamoring for more information about this box office bomb. If they do, they can always go see the 2012 update. Oh, wait. They didn’t. That bombed, too. I guess one was enough for Dredd fans—or there just aren’t that many out there.