Director: Danny Cannon
Screenplay: William Wisher, Jr. and Steven E. de Souza, from a story by Michael De Luca and William Wisher, Jr. and based on characters created by Pat Mills, John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Armand Assante, Diane Lane, Rob Schneider, Max von Sydow and Jurgen Prochnow
Running Time: 96 minutes
Genre: Science-fiction, action, adventure, thrller, crime
Summary: In the third millennium, the Earth has become a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Most of the inhabitants live in vastly overpopulated Mega-Cities, seperated by huge expanses of largely uninhabitable desolation known as "Cursed Earth", populated by small bands of brutal, cannibalistic outlaws. Law and order in the crime-ridden Mega-Cities is enforced by heavily armoured Street Judges who have the authorisation not only to enforce the law but to act as judge, jury and executioner, with the power to hand down a variety of sentences such as heavy on the spot fines, imprisonment in remote penal colonies or summary execution.
In Mega-City One, which occupies the east coast of the USA, the top Street Judge is Judge Joseph Dredd (Stallone). However, when a murderous ex-Judge (Assante) escapes from a penal colony and returns to Mega-City One, Judge Dredd finds himself accused and convicted of a murder he didn't commit. With the help of fellow Judge Hershey (Lane), and a cowardly computer hacker (Schneider), Dredd attempts to prove his innocence and uncover corruption that reaches to the top of the Justice Department.
Opinions: Judge Dredd first appeared in 1977 in the pages of British science-fiction comic-book 2000 AD and remains one of the most popular comic-book characters ever produced in the UK. It is fair to say that the film is only very loosely based on the comic-book, and the movie did have a very bad reaction from fans, most notably because of the fact that Dredd spends most of the film without his trademark helmet, in the comic Dredd very rarely removes his helmet and even when he does, his face is never shown. Also the movie ignores several important elements from the comic series, for example there is a kind of romantic element between Dredd and Hershey when in the comic romantic attachments between Judges (or between Judges and anyone else) is strictly forbidden. The movie also lacks a lot of the quirkiness of the comic.
Despite the fact that the film was mostly panned by critics and fans of the comic, the movie itself really isn't that bad. It is a mid-'90s science-fiction action movie no better and certainly no worse than many that were released at the same time. The special effects while they obviously look dated by today's standards are still pretty impressive, and there are some great effects in the film such as the Mega-City itself and the look of the deadly ABC Warrior Robot. Sylvester Stallone does what he does best providing gravel-voiced one-liners and muscle-bound action-man heroics. Max von Sydow lends the film some dignity and gravitas as Dredd's mentor. However on the negative side Rob Schneider drags the film down with misplaced comedy-relief. It makes it hard to maintain much drama, tension, suspense or excitement when they pop in Schneider to make a bad joke and drain away the drama like water when the plug is pulled from the sink. It also suffers from Armand Assante over-acting like a pantomime villain, really the only think he didn't have was a moustache to twirl.
It's a fun movie, it looks good, there are some fun action scenes and it is often entertaining, but it has been done better elsewhere. It's a pity really, because it is something of a missed opportunity. There could be a great movie made from Judge Dredd, but this isn't it.
"I never broke the law... I AM THE LAW!"
-Sylvester Stallone in Judge Dredd (1995)
Sylvester Stallone lays down the law in Judge Dredd