Wednesday, June 4, 2014

MR Judge Dredd (1995)

I. Am. THE LAW!!!!

It's a competition between SLY and SCHWARZIE in these following reviews:

Movie: Judge Dredd 
Directed by Danny Cannon
Release date 1995
Genre Science-fiction action film
Country USA

A very simple concept at heart, the Judge Dredd series can be as fun, gritty or complex as anyone wants, that is... in the hands of the right writers.

The comic series was created through the British comic publisher 2000 AD by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra back in 1977. It was created as a way to both parody American superhero comics and as a proxy to actually tell similar kind of stories. It was brutal. It was violent. And it was definitively over the top.

The character knew a fairly impressive popularity through the 1980s worldwide, thanks to translation and reprints. And by the end of the 80s as the US comic market went darker and grittier thanks to a "Dark Age of Comic Books" initiated by the likes of the Watchmen and the Dark Knight Returns, Dredd knew an important enough revival in the US to gain an all-new impressive renewed interest.

It's no wonder the franchise was adapted through many other mediums over the years such as books video games, toys, board games... you name it! Including a first "live action" film in this following movie adaptation of 1995.

The film was directed by relatively newcomer Danny Cannon at the time, and was produced by Buena Vista Pictures no less - long before Hollywood went into its current modern superhero craze in theaters! Starring Sylvester Stallone, Rob Schneider, Diane Lane and Armand Assante. With a screenplay written by Steven E. de Souza!

The film probably wouldn't have been made without Stallone. I have very little doubt it would have existed without Sly pushing for it to be honest.

Stallone actually really enjoyed the propriety after he was given a look at the project. He specially has gone on to say he really enjoyed the whole morale angle when checking out some of the older Judge Dredd comics, and the whole political tone/satire aspect.

Judge Dredd follows the eponymous "Judge" figure named Dredd. In the distant future these all-powerful judges are armed to the teeth, granted supreme authority acting as judge, jury and executioner. And this so-called titular Judge Dredd was the most feared of all those judges.

Our story takes place as a former Judge who has become a murderer escaped prison and was able to get his hands back on a uniform and some Judge equipment. He decides to frame the Judge responsible for his imprisonment, Dredd.

Cloned from the same DNA as Stallone's Dredd, unlike his "brother" this Rico Dredd turned into a psychopath growing up. His deviant personality taking over his Judge formation. Rico is now plotting to bring the entire system down.

He starts this conspiracy by murdering a reporter following Dredd around, faking footage to turn Judge Dredd into the criminal.

Dredd is convicted for a murder he didn't commit and only gets a life sentence instead of a pure execution.

Dredd is exiled to a penal colony outside "the Cursed Earth ".

Meanwhile Rico is taking over the law department in order to rule over Mega City One.

Can Judge Dredd clear his name in time before it's too late?

This adaptation of the cult series followed a pretty classic Hollywood formula, almost cliché, of a man trying to prove his innocence.

But this basic storyline served its purpose - showing us a glimpse at this surreal dystopian universe. We get the scope how huge and impressive Mega City One is. We get to visit the wastelands outside of the city walls. And we get a look at many, many characters and creatures inhabiting 2000 AD's world of Judge Dredd. 

The city is run by a corrupt system using criminals to control the population through fear.

The film was mostly based on the old comic storyline titled "The Return of Rico", which like the movie (more or less) saw Dredd's evil brother coming back from his long exile to take revenge on the people who sent him to prison.  

This film was made at the height of Stallone's popularity, with a Sly at the top of his game.

Which is perhaps this film's real downfall, at least as far a Judge Dredd movie should go.

The producers were hard at work making it a Stallone vehicle more than anything else really.

But let it be said - Sylvester Stallone does makes for a great Dredd... that is.. until he takes his helmet off to barely never putt it back on ever again (because it's freakin' Stallone and his name's the thing bringing in audience to begin with, after all!). But it kinda stings a bit for fans of the characters, specially after over 30+ years of Judge Dredd comics never showing his real face, this does come a bit out of character and "off" for a series representing and parodying all-powerful blank figures of the authority.

For the most part, Stallone plays pretty well the part of this great kickass badass imposing figure.

There's more good. Other Judge, Judge Hershey is pretty fantastically played by a badass Diane Lane, a strong female character trying to help clear Dredd's name. There's also a nice bit for Judge Dredd’s father figure, Judge Fargo, played by a great Max Von Sydow.

But then there's Rob Schneider. Simply said, playing his usual comedic-self as the sort of sidekick that kept ruining good action films back in the day. And his character here is the worst offender as such. Schneider's here basically really because of Stallone himself who asked for him. The role was originally meant to go to Joe Pesci (!!!).

It doesn't come to much surprise to me, since really this also was kind of the same stupid humor dispatched in 90s comics actually.

Where the film doesn't really shine through his with its very sloppy acting and bad silly dialogues really... but it strangely also works in the favor of this film as a Judge Dredd film, since those comics were mostly known for their pretty over-the-top parodic nature to begin with.

Stallone gives the film a kind of cold, brutal, imposing presence. I really think Sly was really not a bad Dredd despite every other aspect of the film. Even his slightly awkward sloppy acting at times worked in the favor of this character.

And the film just had simply stunning visuals. It made a great use of models and matte paintings to get Mega City One the feel of a dystopian future.

Sure, the film wasn't entirely really that faithful.. but they did try their best to be as close to the tone of the comics as possible. Recapturing the iconic looks, suits and details of the old Dredd comics of the 80s.

The city looked simply amazing. Stunning, really! Filled with bad guys and chaos in the streets. They even got the guns, the motorcycle and the great overall feel right. Every costume and design had a solid look, not looking silly in the slightest, but actually impressively brought to life on screen.

The film made a great use of practical FXs. Who can forget the badass ABC mech (who sadly gets very little to do...)? Or Mean Machine simply stealing every scene he's in, a real standout in the entire film thanks to great make-up.

What the film really achieves is making me think how much untapped potential there is in the Judge Dredd franchise...

The film serves as a great introduction to the character in a pretty simple almost-average sci-fi film.

During the post-production, Jerry Goldsmith was actually going to score the film but he ended dropping the project. In fact the trailer even used one of his original music tracks already recorded for the film. They quickly had to select someone else to replace Goldsmith and went with one of my cult favorite composers to take over, Alan Silvestri! He composed a great imposing score for Judge Dredd. Epic, orchestral and action-packed.

The film was sadly released to mostly a negative reception at the time. Which is kind of unfairly in my eyes.. It failed big time at making its budget back and only was able to do so thanks to home releases later on.

Even Sly himself went on to admit there were lots of missed opportunities with this film and taking the helmet off was probably a bad idea for the fans...

Overall, while the dialogues can be sometimes exceptionally bad, it still is a fairly decent effective action film.

With stunning effects. The movie just looks great!

Director Danny Cannon really loved the comic, and in fact was fascinated by the character since he was a teenager. In fact he even made fan poster back then as a kid which he entered in a contest for 2000 AD... which he won! A mock up Judge Dredd movie poster ("by Ridley Scott" no less!) - when he would end up actually directing a Judge Dredd movie years later in 1995!!

The film was maybe not as faithful as some fans would have wished for, but in my opinion it really captured the look and aesthetics of Judge Dredd comics back in the 90s. Loud and over the top.

I really believe Stallone had the physic, the built and the chin for the role.

Sure, it might have been a bit campy at times, but it still has a lot of charm. Though at times it also almost feels like a follow-up or a remake of Demolition man...

At the end of the day, Judge Dredd license or not, the film still is a pretty fun well-paced badass bigger-than-life sci-fi action film! And that's all you could ask for in a movie like this.

I give it:
2 / 3 UFOs!

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