Should I Watch..? 'Judge Dredd'

Updated on November 25, 2019
Benjamin Cox profile image

Ben now has a Twitter account for this blog - follow him at @shouldiwatch2 so you can stay up to date with all his latest content and more.

Film's poster
Film's poster | Source

What's the big deal?

Judge Dredd is an action sci-fi film released in 1995 and is based on the comics character of the same name created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra. Directed by Danny Cannon, the film is set in a dystopian future where Judges have the ability to process justice on the streets on Mega-City One. The most iconic Judge, Judge Dredd, finds himself framed for a murder he did not commit and must stop his psychotic half-brother Rico from unleashing devastation on the run-down populace. The film stars Sylvester Stallone, Armand Assante, Diane Lane, Rob Schneider, Max Von Sydow and Jürgen Prochnow. The film was panned upon release by critics who savaged Stallone's performance, the film's lack of originality and inconsistency with the source material. However, while still widely regarded as one of the worst films of Stallone's career, the film also received praise for its effects and costumes designed by Gianni Versace. The film is widely considered to be a flop after global takings of $113.5 million and is considered the weakest adaptation of the character following a 2012 reboot called Dredd.

Forgettable

2 stars for Judge Dredd

What's it about?

After a vast ecological collapse, most of the world has become a barren wasteland inhabited by mutants and the dregs of society. Most people live in vast metropolises like Mega-City One which is home to an ever-rampant crime-wave, persistent urban deprivation and the Judges - the only things standing between the law and total anarchy. Each Judge is equipped with a Lawgiver pistol with multiple firing modes as well as the ability to issue criminal sentences on the spot, from incarceration and fines to death. By 2139, the rookie Judge Hershey is assigned to assist legendary Judge Joseph Dredd in ending a block war.

Unknown to Dredd, his half brother and former Judge Rico has been sprung from prison and is intent on bringing Dredd down. Rico frames Dredd for the murder of a journalist and he is sentenced to life in prison by a tribunal of fellow Judges including his mentor Chief Justice Fargo. En route to a remote penal colony, Dredd finds himself working alongside recently jailed hacker Herman "Fergie" Ferguson (a man Dredd himself jailed) in order to escape and fight the system he has spent his life enforcing.

Trailer

Main Cast

Actor
Role
Sylvester Stallone
Judge Joseph Dredd
Armand Assante
Rico Dredd
Diane Lane
Judge Barbara Hershey
Rob Schneider
Herman "Fergie" Ferguson
Jürgen Prochnow
Judge Griffin
Max Von Sydow
Chief Justice Fargo
Joanna Miles
Judge McGruder
Joan Chen
Dr Ilsa Hayden

Technical Info

Director
Danny Cannon
Screenplay
William Wisher & Steven E. de Souza*
Running Time
96 minutes
Release Date (UK)
21st July, 1995
Rating
15
Genre
Action, Crime, Sci-Fi
Razzie Award Nominations
Worst Actor (Stallone)
*story by William Wisher & Michael De Luca, based on characters created by John Wagner & Carlos Ezquerra
Stallone may be unfairly maligned for the decision to ditch the character's helmet but he does well as the muscle-bound law-enforcing anti-hero. He looks the part.
Stallone may be unfairly maligned for the decision to ditch the character's helmet but he does well as the muscle-bound law-enforcing anti-hero. He looks the part. | Source

What's to like?

Even with films as widely disliked as Judge Dredd, I always try to find the positive first. And to be honest, there's actually quite a lot to admire here. It looks and feels like a big budget picture - Mega-City One itself looks amazing, stretching off into a bleak horizon while still capturing the urban decay at street level. It might have something of Blade Runner about it but that's to be expected given how the comic was influenced by that film. There is also a more practical look to the film - take the comically crude robot that Rico hires as a bodyguard. It looks faintly silly but again, that fits in with the satirical nature of the comics.

Costumes are spot-on, maybe less practical in real-life than they are in the pages of 2000 AD but way more stunning. From the shiny gold shoulder pads to the aggressively styled codpieces, the characters look every bit as gaudy as you'd hope for. And while he's not everyone's cup of tea, I like the look of Stallone as Dredd. In my mind, Dredd sounds like a lunking meat-head and Stallone fits the part perfectly even if his ego still caused problems off-camera with the film's more audience-friendly tone. It is a great film to watch as a spectacle but if you're hoping for decent performances or a narrative that explores the extensive history of the character then I'm afraid you're out of luck.

Fun Facts

  • Director Cannon was so disheartened by Stallone's interference and creative control that he vowed never to work with a big name star again. Stallone later claimed that he felt the movie would work better as an action comedy although both Cannon and the screenwriters intended for a darker, more satirical product.
  • The moment in the film when Dredd removes his helmet caused huge controversy among fans as Dredd never reveals his face (the one time he did, a censored box appeared). However, the studio were unlikely to keep the helmet on an actor as expensive as Stallone but the helmet stayed on Karl Urban in Dredd.
  • This was the first film in history to be released simultaneously with a video game. Although the game used backdrops from the film in its levels, the game was based on a different story to the movie.
  • The film shares several narrative similarities with the earlier Stallone film Demolition Man. Coincidentally, Schneider also starred in that film as well.

What's not to like?

So while Judge Dredd walks the walk, it sadly cannot talk the talk. Assante is laughably bad as Rico, full of wide-eyed ham and slurring his speech in such a way that I'm amazed Stallone didn't knock his block off. There is a dearth of support from the likes of Prochnow, Sydow and Lane who are all underused and much finer actors than this junk would suggest. But the worst cast member by far is Schneider, a man so painfully unfunny as the comedic sidekick that you laugh harder when he's not in shot. Why did this film need such a character in the first place? I don't associate a character like Dredd with slapstick comedy and as soon as Schneider appears, you know that any attempt at being a serious film is being jettisoned in favour of increased box office potential.

The story itself isn't that bad but kinda predictable and not helped by things we've seen before such as the partially destroyed Statue Of Liberty which we've seen in stuff like Cloverfield and Escape From New York. And the action scenes are perfectly acceptable, the film struggles to engage with you as a viewer. I can't pick out a single moment that made me like the film aside from the opening scenes where Stallone is under the famous helmet, looking the part. Even the trademark Lawmaster bikes look silly - they should be based on choppers or Harley Davidsons but instead look like pimped-out mopeds. Despite the $90 million budget and the obvious effort put into the effects and look of the film, it never feels like a quality product as Stallone and Assante go nose-to-nose with each other and mangle the dialogue.

Schneider's "comedic" presence undermines the seriousness of the film, reducing it to a camp sci-fi parody instead of the subversive satire of the comics.
Schneider's "comedic" presence undermines the seriousness of the film, reducing it to a camp sci-fi parody instead of the subversive satire of the comics. | Source

Should I watch it?

Certainly, it pales compared to its reboot but Judge Dredd has to go down as one of the biggest missed opportunities in cinema history. This could have been a genuine game-changer if they'd stuck to the satire of the comics instead of becoming the very thing the character was intended to spoof. It looks great on screen but fans of the character will be up-in-arms at this film while the rest of us probably won't remember that much of it to care.

Great For: pandering to the fragile ego of its star, Versace shareholders, home commentaries

Not So Great For: fans of the comics, acting coaches, jaded action fans

What else should I watch?

Without question, Dredd is the superior film and it's not even close. Grittier and more visceral than Judge Dredd despite the obvious budgetary restraints, Karl Urban displays a better understanding of the character than Stallone and the film is much more in sync with the comic origins. Sadly, the film underperformed at the box office which appears to have scuppered plans for a sequel. But the film remains popular with fans and a suggested TV series starring Urban has been proposed as a way forward for the character. Watch this space...

Cinema has given audiences many glimpses into dystopian futures from the Mad Max series and RoboCop to Planet Of The Apes and Brazil. Japanese anime films are seemingly obsessed with depicting various futures which, inevitably, turn out to be less than great - Akira brought the medium to the attention of the wider world while the cyberpunk thriller Ghost In The Shell inspired numerous spin-offs and a Hollywood remake. And earlier this year, we finally saw Robert Rodriguez tackle another beloved anime remake with Alita: Battle Angel, a story of an amnesiac cyborg setting out to discover her past. While once again proving to be a visually stunning production, the film appears to have been narratively incoherent which suggests that once again, something has been lost in the translation.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Benjamin Cox

    Soap Box

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • FatFreddysCat profile image

        Keith Abt 

        2 months ago from The Garden State

        Loved the set designs and costumes (Sly looked bad as hell in that Dredd armor!)... hated Rob Schneider. Judge Dredd did not need a wacky sidekick.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://reelrundown.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)