Some films withstand the test of time, some don’t and others just make you flat out wince. Judge Dredd, starring Sylvester Stallone and directed by Danny Cannon, falls on the latter side of that equation. The 1995 movie takes a British science fiction character and surrounds him with bad acting, atrocious dialogue and gaudy set design. Even if you’re into pure action, without the plot, it’s hard to find any enjoyment in this film – unless you’re hosting a drinking party designed around making fun of the movie.
The movie makes its first appearance on Blu-ray this year thanks to Pete Travis’ Dredd 3D reboot, starring Karl Urban and Olivia Thirlby.
Judge Dredd is set in the future, where “judges” enforce the law. After bedlam broke out in the streets, these judges became a new-age militia of badass cops – who are judge, jury and executioner. Dredd is considered to be the best judge. Armed with his Lawgiver pistol (which functions as six different types of guns and can only be used by his unique palm print), he’s achieved notoriety for taking down the most hardened criminals.
Similar to other comic book adapted movies of the past century, the filmmakers focused their efforts on copying the exact comic book wardrobe and settings. They forgot to realize that comics and movies are two different mediums. Tasteless gold trimmings surround Dredd at every turn. It’s hard to maintain any aspect of believability because the outfits look like they were designed for a high school stage production. Similarly, his motorbike looks like a giant toy. The cartoony set designs make you feel like the story is taking place in McDonalds rather than the future.
Sweeping scores and excessive music try to build up a drama that’s just not there. There’s hardly any intensity from scene-to-scene – just bad dialogue. In one of the most overdramatized scenes in movie history, Dredd yells out, “I AMMM THE LAW.” You’ll either grimace or spew milk out of your nose laughing. Stallone excessively curls his lip up throughout the movie. He also takes off his helmet, breaking the comic book style where Dredd’s face is never fully shown. One has to think the filmmakers assumed that this would add to the film, but it just calls attention to more over-the-top acting.
Judge Dredd should have been called Judge Stallone. It’s like a bad anime movie with human characters and should be considered a comic book spoof rather than an adaptation.