'Judge Dredd' Review – Stallone’s Unpunished Face

Updated on April 13, 2018
Sam Shepards profile image

Hi, I'm Sam, I love movies. My main interest is science fiction and zombie survival movies,but I love classics and various cult pieces also.

Judge Dredd is a movie based on a comic, made many years before the industry finally understood how that kind of adaptation had to be done.

And of course, it shows.

I like to imagine Judge Dredd as the whim of a rich kid (AKA Hollywood producer) excited and screaming to his friends: “Hey! I bought the rights to this comic, but I have no idea what it’s about! It doesn’t matter! Let’s copy some vignettes and make a movie! Let’s play superheroes! Stallone will be the protagonist! Diane Lane his romantic interest! Gianni Versace will make the costumes! Let the voice of Darth Vader narrate the beginning! Let’s make Rob from SNL make some idiot jokes! And that guy who scored Back to the Future will make the music!”

Judge Dredd begins its mistakes from the very beginning, placing the opening credits sequence in the front pages of the original comic, zooming into the vignettes, as if saying, “once upon a time in this nerd comic that we are going to exploit for our economic benefit.” That beginning is Judge Dredd assuming itself as a gimmick, something not to be taken seriously. It’s a terrible way to play with the invaluable suspension of disbelief.

In Judge Dredd, the year is 2080, and the world is practically a wasteland. In this compelling and well-argued dystopia, the population has concentrated in the few and overpopulated Mega-Cities, which has brought an absolute urban chaos. The law is administered directly through the new role of judges, who are simultaneously police officers, judges, jury, and executioners. This is a drastic way to lighten the bureaucracy and try to maintain control of the streets. Our protagonist is Judge Dredd (Sylvester Stallone), a walking legend and an unshakable follower and enforcer of the law.

After one day of hard work, 16 minutes after the movie starts, Dredd reunites with his mentor Chief Justice Fargo (Max von Sydow), and in the middle of the conversation, he takes off his helmet.

And right at that moment, the film concretely and symbolically diluted itself.

The real Judge Dredd would have never removed his helmet. That’s a fundamental part of his definition as a character. But Stallone, being the star he is, couldn’t resist the urge to immediately show his face, adorned by fake blue eyes, at the very beginning of the film.

The intervention of Stallone wouldn’t stay there. Judge Dredd didn’t work because of the clash between Stallone and director Danny Cannon. Cannon had in mind a more satirical and dark version of the story and Stallone, using his star power, imposed his light comedy “vision.”

Cannon didn’t have enough leadership and Stallone didn’t even know the comic he was portraying. In the end, what was left was a movie that at times seems to parody itself, but most of the time forget to do that, using a serious tone in several moments of the story.

But don’t get me wrong. Judge Dredd is fun to watch. Alan Silvestri’s unnecessarily dramatic score underlining and contrasting the hilarious overacting of Sylvester Stallone and Armand Assante sparks some unplanned good laughs. There are so many cheesy court-related one-liners that the cringe manages to be entertaining.

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Visually, Judge Dredd has high standards. For example, one of its strengths is the character design. I still vividly remember the apparitions of Mean Machine Angel (Christopher Adamson) and the ABC Warrior, who are practically collector’s DeLuxe action figures brought to life. The Versace costume designs are ridiculous and impractical, but they certainly achieve the task of being remembered. The well-designed visual effects continue to remain in good shape even by today standards.

But it’s impossible not to relate Judge Dredd with the patronization the movie has with the original material.

Stallone, you should have kept your helmet on.

Don't forget to check out the vastly superior movie Dredd. It's done with half the budget and star power.

Movie Details

Title: Judge Dredd

Release Year: 1995

Director(s): Danny Cannon

Writer(s): John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra

Actors: Sylvester Stallone, Diane Lane, Armand Assante a.o.

2 stars for Judge Dredd

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