Judge Dredd

Judge Dredd

***

Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

2000AD, the British comic-book from which Judge Dredd takes its inspiration, is an exploration of the hard-as-nails, immutable heroes who define a generation of comic-books, only here they are ramped up on steroids and given a masochistic dress code. The world has been overcome by radioactive pollution, and is now called The Cursed Earth and the only remaining citizens live in hugely cramped skyscrapers, in one of the remaining uberviolent Megacities.

The unbending will of the law is driven by the Judges - law enforcement officers given executive powers of cop, jury and executioner. Danny Cannon's film offers a dystopian version of the future, without the style or skill of Blade Runner, although the newbie director is not fazed by the large sets, and extensive visual-effects quota.

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Sylvester Stallone is splendidly miscast as Judge Dredd - the longest serving and toughest Judge on the streets of Mega-City One, and a vociferous upholder of the letter of the law, letting nothing slide. He and his partner, Judge Hershey (Diane Lane) patrol the street and shoot it out with bad guys. The movie is scripted loosely from the "The Day the Law Died" story arc, whereupon Dredd is framed and imprisoned for life. Meanwhile, with Dredd out of the way, corrupt Judge Griffin (Jurgen Prochnow) and the diabolical Dredd clone Rico (Armand Assante, having the time of his life chewing the scenery) are plotting to take over Mega-City One.

The art department rips-off a slew of pulpy fantasy novels, movies or comic-books. Everything onscreen looks as though it has been taken wholesale from The Terminator, Star Wars, RoboCop or Blade Runner, or even - during a moment featuring a family of freaks - Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes. The Megacities are filthy, neon-drenched angular towers of glass and steel, the enforcer soldiers are drawn from Star Wars' stormtroopers, and the ancient bodyguard droids are like supersized bodybuilder Terminator exoskeletons.

Given that it is an extraordinarily derivative work... why the reasonably high star rating? Judge Dredd is a simple piece of mindlessly gratifying entertainment that works on its own terms. Stallone, while miscast, glares, glowers and generally overacts in a fashion that reminds us of the Schumacher Batman films - albeit with a dry, wisecracking sense of humour. The action is fast-paced, noisy and fun, Assante is a treat as the mad villain and Rob Schneider provides a strangely welcome bit of comic relief from the grimacing Dredd and overwrought scripting by William Wisher and Steven E De Souza. Plot holes wide enough to house a tank provide further amusement value.

A guilty pleasure? As charged.

Reviewed on: 17 Oct 2008
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Comic-book adaptation of 2000AD hero.
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Director: Danny Cannon

Writer: John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, Michael De Luca, William Wisher Jr.

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Diane Lane, Armand Assante, Rob Schneider, Jürgen Prochnow, Max von Sydow, Joanna Miles, Joan Chen, Balthazar Getty, Maurice Roëves

Year: 1995

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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