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Guilty Pleasure – Judge Dredd

5 min read

I’m a huge fan of action movie stars. Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone defined my life, from their exploits fighting German terrorists while barefoot, to their driving need to protect John Connuhah while looking absolutely badass on a Harley Davidson.

Sadly, as the years rolled by, their era was sadly coming to a close. And no more was that evident, than in the 1995 turkey, Judge Dredd.

Set in a future where humanity had buggered itself with nuclear wars and bureaucratic red-tape, things were looking pretty grim. Forced to survive in massive cities, and with very little job oppurtunities available, trouble was most certainly a brewin’.

Gang violence, murder, theft and corruption were rampant, and with the courts too choked up on traditional methods that could not see any relevant enforcement of the law, it fell into the hands of the Judges to enforce the rules.

Able to instantly arrest and sentence crooks, the Judges were basically walking robocops, except with heavier guns, less armour, more fascism and a kick-ass set of wheels. And the best out of the bunch was ol’ stony chin himself, Judge Dredd.

And say what you will about this film, but they nailed and updated it just enough for a contemparary age. The uniforms looked practical and imposing, the motorcycles were regally intimidating, and the lawgiver gun, merchandise-whore that it was, looked like something that I wanted to own.

Stallone looked the part, and acted it perfectly. The only mistake he made, was in removing the damn helmet, but otherwise, he was dah lawuh!

Some fine acting from a notable cast, including Diane Lane as Judge Hershey, Max Von Sydow as the venerable Chief Judge Fargo, and recently escaped mental asylum patient Armand Assante as Rico Dredd, a more sadistic sibling and counterpart to Stallones’ lawman.

The one horrible mistake however, was casting this guy:

Yes, Rob Schneider. Having obviously grown far too fond of Stallone in the 1993 Demolition Man, Schneider was a one-man wrecking crew, spewing bad jokes, acting terribly and just generally bringing the entire film around him whenever he appeared.

And of course, there were several missed opportunities at portraying the Judges as a fascistic force, an all-encompassing government who believed that democracy was not for the people, who would curb out any attempt to truly undermine, in order to protray them as a more neutral force, the white hats en masse, so to speak.

Even Stallone admitted this, as he said in an interview with Uncut Magazine back in 2008:

I loved that property when I read it, because it took a genre that I love, what you could term the ‘action morality film’ and made it a bit more sophisticated. It had political overtones.

It showed how if we don’t curb the way we run our judicial system, the police may end up running our lives. It dealt with archaic governments; it dealt with cloning and all kinds of things that could happen in the future. It was also bigger than any film I’ve done in its physical stature and the way it was designed.

All the people were dwarfed by the system and the architecture; it shows how insignificant human beings could be in the future. There’s a lot of action in the movie and some great acting, too. It just wasn’t balls to the wall. But I do look back on Judge Dredd as a real missed opportunity. It seemed that lots of fans had a problem with Dredd removing his helmet, because he never does in the comic books.

But for me it is more about wasting such great potential there was in that idea; just think of all the opportunities there were to do interesting stuff with the Cursed Earth scenes.

It didn’t live up to what it could have been. It probably should have been much more comic, really humorous, and fun. What I learned out of that experience was that we shouldn’t have tried to make it Hamlet; it’s more Hamlet and Eggs

But otherwise, as a straight action film, there’s a whole lot of love from me towards Judge Dredd and Megacity One. Those fantastic motorcycles. That super-awesome practical effect of a giant war robot, awhich was a slight nod towards another comic book series from the source material, 2000AD.

Then you’ve got the Angel gang, with member Mean Angel featuring a set of prosthetics that would give a cyborg an erection, while Armand Assante just cut loose and proceeded to not give a crap about the film, going full-crazy on the process. And you never go full-crazy.

But the best bit has to be that marvellous one-liner from Stallone;

To this day, I still use that line when the time is right, alongside my father who has yet to understand it’s memetic pull. But as one of the last real big-budget films of the action genre, before things became more complicated, heroes became more flawed and the day wasn’t always won, Judge Dredd will always be one of the cheesiest and finest examples of the genre in decline.

Last Updated: March 29, 2012

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