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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 8/24/98

Judge Dredd
1995 (1998) - Cinergi (Hollywood Pictures/Buena Vista)

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Film Rating: C+
Yet another post-apocalyptic nightmare world, where lawlessness abounds. Some interesting production design and a few moments of humor. Some cool casting too. Taken for what it is, it's enjoyable but forgettable.

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A/D-
Very good widescreen picture (but not 16x9), tremendous Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, but only a trailer as an extra.

Overall Rating: C+
If you really liked the movie, are a fan of the Judge Dredd comics, or you really dig Stallone's steroid films, then by all means buy it. Otherwise, at this price... think twice.

Specs and Features

96 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), single-sided, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film-themed menus, scene access (17 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), French (DD 2.0), Close Captioned


Sylvester Stallone packs his pectorals into the gold-plated, armored uniform of a Judge, dealing out justice in a future metropolis gone bad. That about sums up Judge Dredd. OK, I admit, there's more to the story. Stallone plays the title character, a thick, emotionless lawman of the future. His job - to patrol the streets of a mega-city of the Third Millennium (it's even called Mega City), and act as policeman, judge and jury. When crimes are witnessed, Judge Dredd hands down the appropriate punishment and carries it out right on the spot. Dredd is the envy of his fellow judges - a seasoned veteran that everyone looks up to. His also the right-hand man of his proud mentor, and the city's highest official, Judge Fargo (Max Von Sydow).

But all is not right in Mega City. A conspiracy is brewing to overthrow the council of Judges, led by one of the council members, Judge Griffin (Jurgen Prochnow). And he's enlisted the help of Rico (Armand Assante), one of the worst criminals ever to walk "The Cursed Earth" (yes, that's what they call it). Rico has been in prison for years, put there by Dredd himself. The two were once friends, and now are mortal enemies. Not to worry though - Dredd's got the benefit of Stallone's brawn, plus the help of a fellow Judge (Diane Lane) and a wise-cracking felon (Rob Schneider). You can guess how it all turns out.

Now, I'm not a fan of, or even familiar with, the Judge Dredd comics (upon which this film is based), so I can't testify as to how faithful it is to that lore. But I can say that Judge Dredd the film, if taken for nothing more than it is, is more or less entertaining. I mean, hey - any film with Jurgen Prochnow can't be all bad, right? The production design, while absolutely unoriginal (think Blade Runner meets The Fifth Element, and you'll know what to expect), is still rather nifty. Mega City is appropriately vertical, dense and cool. Dredd's weapon, a gun that has voice-selectable ammo for every occasion, would be great to have on a dark and scary night. And that war robot Rico walks around with is darned menacing. The performances are adequate, but are entirely two-dimensional - appropriate, I suppose, to a film based on a comic book. Armand Assante is particularly good as Rico, and Rob Schneider is occasionally very funny. And I got a good laugh over the recycling robot's monotone mantra: "Eat recycled food... it's good for the environment, and OK for you."

On the other hand, the script is filled with cliches, inane one-liners, and is overall pretty flimsy. Let's face it, the sky-cycle chase is right out of Return of the Jedi. Some of the in-jokes really bomb. I mean, come on... Abbott and Costello Lane? And most of the great acting talent in this movie is overshadowed by larger-than-life comic book imagery.

As for disc quality, it's a really mixed bag. The letterboxed widescreen picture is really very good overall, but it's not 16x9, and there's no pan & scan version provided. The audio is what really stands out - well mixed Dolby Digital 5.1, with thunderous bass, and some very cool use of the surround channels. It's really fun to listen to. Unfortunately, 5.1 audio is only provided in English (there's a 2.0 French soundtrack), and there are no subtitles on the disc at all, other than English Close Captioning. All that's provided in the way of extras is a theatrical trailer. Rather lame for the price. Oh, I forgot - there's also the typical "If you like this film, try..." section found on Buena Vista DVDs. Again, lame. Let me say it clearly - Buena Vista really needs to shape up when it comes to putting features on their DVDs.

Bottom line

In the end, I had the same reaction to Judge Dredd that I had to Men In Black - it was sort of fun while it lasted, but completely forgettable when it was over. If you like the comic books, liked the film, or just dig this kind of film in general, don't hesitate to buy it. It does really put your stereo system through its paces. On the other hand, I can't really recommend this DVD to everyone, given the premium price Buena Vista charges. There's little value to be found here. Oh well.

Bill Hunt

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