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Screen Savers: Judge Dredd (1995)

Screen Savers: Judge Dredd (1995)


There are times when writing the Screen Savers article can be very tough. Watching widely regarded bad films can be difficult. This week, that film is the 1995 comic book adaptation Judge Dredd. The movie starred action superstar, Sylvester Stallone and was directed by Danny Cannon.

The film is basically your typical action comedy, that was suppose to be based on the comic book. There were elements of the comic book in the film. However, the behind the scenes animosity between director Danny Cannon and star Sylvester Stallone really hindered the film.

Stallone believed the movie needed the humour, while Cannon wanted to remain closer to the source material. The writer, Steven E. de Souza, had written a script that would be more in line with Stallone‘s idea of the film. Cannon shot the film he wanted, no matter what. The studio wanted a PG-13 film; de Souza gave them a PG-13 script; but Cannon filmed an NC-17 movie which eventually was cut to be R-rated in the US.

With all the issues behind the scenes and the critical backlash of the final product, the film was not successful. Sometimes a film gets made that isn’t as bad as some people make it out to be. Perhaps if this movie was not entitled Judge Dredd and had just been a generic action comedy, it may have been better received.

What’s It About?

Loosely based on the comic book of the same name, the movie focuses on Judge Joseph Dredd in Mega-City One. Set in a dystopian future where the majority of humanity resides in huge Mega-Cities with populations of tens of millions. To combat crime, the traditional justice system has been replaced by a corps of Judges whose role combines those of police officer, judge, jury, and executioner.

The most harsh Judge is the aforementioned Judge Dredd. He hands out severe sentences without considering any reasons or extenuating circumstances. The Judges are led by a Council of senior Judges who are working hard to try and reduce crime. Judge Griffin (Jurgen Prochnow), wants harsher penalties for lesser crimes, as well as a secret desire to be the Chief Justice of the Council.

Judge Griffin plots his very own coup d’etat by enlisting the help of a disgraced, thought to be deceased, ex-Judge by the name of Rico (Armand Assante). Together, they frame Judge Dredd for the murder of a nosy reporter which leads to Chief Justice Fargo (Max Von Sydow) stepping down. Fargo treats Dredd as a son, and in order to spare his execution he retires and is granted a final demand as a retiring senior Judge.

I am.. The Law!

Dredd is sentenced to life in prison; Fargo has to take “the long walk”, which is to say he is exiled out of the city to the ‘Cursed Earth’; and Judge Griffin is promoted to Chief Justice. This is all an elaborate scheme to resurrect the cloning program that actually created Dredd and Rico. That’s right folks, they’re brothers who were partners and one turned on the other.

Dredd and a convict he sentenced earlier, Fergee (Rob Schneider), survive an attack on their prison ship. Together the two of them re-enter Mega-City One and set out to prove Dredd’s innocence. With the help of another street Judge named Hershey (Diane Lane) and a cadet, they find out the truth about Dredd and Rico.

Rico and new Chief Justice Griffin manage to convince the Council to re-open the cloning project. Rico then murders the entire Council except Griffin so they cannot change their minds. Rico, of course, eventually turns against Chief Justice Griffin and wants to create an army of criminals with the re-instated cloning project. This all leads to the brother vs brother showdown between Rico and Dredd.

Who’s In It?

The big star in this movie is obviously Sylvester Stallone as Judge Dredd. He also was part of the biggest problems in the movie. Fans of he comic were very upset that Dredd’s helmet was removed, because he NEVER removes his helmet. Stallone wanted to be seen, and be emotional. He also points out that when Dredd is sentenced he wouldn’t be able to wear the helmet anyways. Perhaps the fans need to blame the script writer and director more than Stallone then.

Between the over acted “I am the Law” scene and his constant use of the line “I knew you’d say that”, Stallone was still not the worst part of the film. Perhaps that belonged to the plucky comic relief of Rob SchneiderSchneider plays Fergee who is the reluctant comedic sidekick to Dredd. If this movie was a straight up action comedy, Schneider actually makes a good addition. Sadly, this was suppose to be an adaptation of a violent comic book series.

Joining Scneider and Stallone in this film were some very interesting actors. The iconic Max Von Sydow as Chief Justice Fargo; Jurgen Prochnow as Judge Griffin; Armand Assante as Rico; Diane Lane as Judge Hershey; and a young Balthazar Getty as Cadet Nathan Olmeyer. There was one cast member who went uncredited in the original release, and that man is Scott Wilson as Pa Angel.

The cast is not terrible, but it does go to show that even a good cast still needs a good script and a good director. Considering the movie was made in the early 90’s, Stallone was actually a good call for the casting. The supporting cast is pretty fantastic in many other films. However, due to the behind the scenes issues, the director and the script writer in conflict, the movie didn’t turn out as expected.

Is It Really That Bad?

The short answer is yes, but it’s not a simple answer. Making a movie based on source material is always tough. You have to keep true to what the source material presents. The studio wanted to make a certain movie, but the distributor wanted a different movie. The writer, director and lead star seemed to have so many issues. The movie ended up being just a mockery of the source material.

I said it earlier, and I will say it again here, if this movie had just been a generic action comedy. Give the film different set dressing, costumes (which were actually designed by Gianni Versace) and a new title, then maybe it is received differently. There were some entertaining moments, I am not going to lie. As a fan of the Hollywood Babble-On Podcast by Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman, I just keep thinking this entire movie could qualify as part of their ‘Exquisite Acting’ segment.

What Movie Should I Watch Instead?

This question is easy to answer thanks to Karl Urban and Reliance Entertainment. They made a much better film based on the comic book character. The film is simply entitled Dredd and was released in 2012. The film was also R-rated but had a much better reception by the viewing audience. The only down side to this film was the lack of money earned at the US domestic box office. The movie itself definitely followed a similar storyline to The Raid, but did give fans a much better Dredd character.

Speaking of The Raid, that would also be a better movie to watch than Judge Dredd. I do know that there will be people who will consider Judge Dredd one of those guilty pleasure movies. So if that is your thing, then maybe you are one of the few out there who can enjoy both for what they are.

What did you think of the Judge Dredd movie? Does it deserve the bad reputation? Let us know in the comments below.