It’s hard to believe that “Judge Dredd” was released only three years ago. It seems like more. It feels like a late 80’s film. Based on the English comic books, “Judge Dredd”is comical all right. Director Danny Cannon spent a lot of money and time to bring “Judge Dredd” to the screen, and what he delivered is a film that can’t make up it’s mind if it wants to be a hardcore action film or a live-action cartoon. Rated R, “Judge Dredd” doesn’t flinch on the violence.
People get shot, tossed to their death, burned alive, ripped apart. You name it, they do it. Yet it tries to be witty and colorful, and that Jekyll and Hyde thing it has going doesn’t work. Sylvester Stallone, fish-hook mouth and all, plays the by-the-numbers, the law is God, Judge Dredd. He’s one of a number of instant gratification lawmakers in one of Earth’s last remaining outposts, one of those towering “Blade Runner” cities grounded by what looks like the Universal Studios City Walk in Hollywood.
Stallone looks absolutely silly in his Gianni Versaci-designed leather and gold outfit. It gets worse when he opens his mouth. Stallone must have had dental work during the production and the novocaine hadn’t worn off yet. He garbles lines like “I’m The Law!” and “I Knew You Would Say That” like someone was tugging on a fishing hook on the side of his mouth. When he takes his helmet off, he looks like he has a Aidan Quinn thing going on. Swear to God. Chaos has taken over the city, and the citizens are rioting. The Judge’s must bring peace or lose total control. Unfortunately, they have a dissenter in their ranks, a member of the supreme council who wants Dredd out so he can take over.
What good is a science fiction film without a madman who wants to rule the world? Dredd is framed for murder and sent to the Aspen Penal Colony to serve a life sentence. When the craft that he’s riding in crash lands, Dredd teams up with a prisoner that he sent up to return to the city and clear his name. Now if only he could clear up that voice thing. Subtitles anyone? Dredd finds out that he’s actually a clone, and that his evil brother Rico (Armand Assante having a very bad hair day) is in cahoots with the traitor. To cover all of the bases, Rico even has a robot guardian that looks like a Rockem’ Sockem’ Robot from the sixties and the evil robot from “The Black Hole.” Rob Schneider, doing his best Richard Dreyfuss, has some fun moments as the prisoner who helps Dredd return to the city. The film looks great, and the special effects are remarkable. There’s even a cat fight between Lane and Joan Chen. Still, “Judge Dredd” isn’t hitting on all four cylinders. Director Cannon and writers William Wisher and Steven De Souza have overloaded the film with so many cartoon cliches that the film becomes one big cliche.
Whoever is mastering and transferring the Disney DVD’s needs to hold a class to teach everyone else how to do it right. Filled with cartoon colors, “Judge Dredd” looks sensational. Not a trace of artifacts. The picture was pure and rich. The flesh tones warm and flattering, with striking neons and penetrating blacks. There’s a lot of fast-paced action in “Judge Dredd,” a lot of it involving explosions and fire, and every pixel seems perfect. Director of Photography Adrian Biddle’s (“Aliens” “Event Horizon”) color scheme looks sharp in the 2.35:1 wide screen transfer.
Pump up the volume and hold on to your shorts, because the 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track will blow you away, and not in a President Clinton-Monica Lewinsky sort of way. Excellent stereo mix puts you right in the middle of the action, especially during the numerous action scenes. Alan Silvestri’s majestic score fills the room with strong bass lines and sharp treble. The separation is superb. There are several shootouts in the film, and it felt like bullets were whizzing by from every direction. There’s also a French language track.
Closed-captioned for the hearing impaired.
The only additional feature is the original theatrical trailer.
“Judge Dredd” wasn’t a big hit in theaters, but it makes an excellent DVD if all you’re interested in is great sound and great picture. Stallone really is “Dredd-ful” in the title role, and Armand Assante can’t seem to stop chewing the scenery when he’s on the screen. It’s not nearly as fun as it ought to be, but it sure sounds and looks great.
ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen
PATIENT: JUDGE DREDD
BIRTH DATE: 1995
HMO: Hollywood Pictures Home Video