Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Why Haven't I Seen That?: JUDGE DREDD

Welcome to a new installment of WHY HAVEN'T I SEEN THAT?, where we talk about a must-see or iconic movie that we have never seen...until now. This week we take a look at the 1995 action classic...JUDGE DREDD.  Enjoy.

Remakes or reboots of classic action movies from the ‘80’s and ‘90’s have a tendency of failing miserably, both critically and at the box office. For prominent recent examples, look no further than Point Break (2015), Robocop (2014), and Total Recall (2012). However, one reboot from the last few years has always stood higher as a movie that made good on the potential that existed within its preexisting universe and brought artistry a level above its campy, over-the-top original material. This movie, 2012’s Dredd, is one of my favorite movies. So last night, I rented Judge Dredd, the 1995 Sylvester Stallone classic -- a movie that somehow I hadn’t seen yet.

Judge Dredd takes place in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic future where the streets run rampant with crime and disorder. Amidst the riots, an army of men and women roam the streets as judge, jury, and executioner. These Judges possess the world’s finest technology and a firm grasp of the ins and outs of laws and sentencing in this new world. Dredd, a legend among Judges for his cold and calculating approach to meting out the Law, is falsely accused of an unforgivable crime. In Judge Dredd, he and his unwilling accomplice, Fergie (played by Rob Schneider), must fight to prove innocence as the world slowly crumbles around them.

The first thing that jumped out to me as I there with my popcorn was the amazing Alan Silvestri score that soars majestically through the ups and downs of this movie. Silvestri’s style has become synonymous with the superhero genre, with his musical prowess providing the themes that drive forward the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Avengers and Captain America movies. It felt slightly odd hearing such a familiar style in a movie that predated the MCU by decades. However, it successfully pulled me into the action and the heart of the story immediately as comic book imagery scrolled across my screen behind the opening credits.

The best word I can use to describe the technical aspects of Judge Dredd is “competent.” It is competently directed, with no real choices that stood out to me as glaringly bad or impressively inspired. Effects are passable for 1995, some maybe even being slightly ahead of their time. The script is cheesy and over-the-top, but in a way that comes across as charming more often than not. The violence is fairly-well choreographed and the general look and feel of the movie works as well as one would expect.

The acting is hit-and-miss. Rob Schneider, surprisingly, delivers a fairly standout performance. Perhaps that is mostly due to how low my expectations are for one of Hollywood’s most consistently awful performers. His chemistry with Stallone is believable and his lines are delivered well, even if his physical acting chops aren’t exactly up to par. Max von Sydow, Diane Lane, and Armand Assante deliver solid supporting efforts, complementing the movie well. Of course, as is often the case in Stallone movies, the weak link is. . . well. . . Stallone. In Judge Dredd, we get to see peak stilted-dialogue and blank-face-delivery. Sly can punch something better than almost anyone who’s ever graced the silver screen. However, as can be expected, his attempts to deliver effective character moments and heartfelt emotional appeals simply don’t succeed.

The first half of Judge Dredd is wonderful, cheesy action that I fully expected to give a positive review. A healthy dose of political commentary and social awareness peppers a movie predominantly made up of Sylvester Stallone being badass. However, around the halfway mark, this movie goes completely off the rails, over-complicating a simple plot to the point of nonsensicalness, far past any hopes of salvation by even extreme suspended disbelief. Unfortunately, the ship never rights itself and careens wildly out-of-control right down to the ending moments of the film. I won’t delve into spoilers here, but I will say that, for the casual moviegoer, nothing will be missed by turning off the movie the moment that you begin to wonder why in the world you’re still watching it.

If you want to watch a complicated movie about vigilantes dishing out hard, cold justice in a world gone mad, watch Karl Urban’s Dredd. If you want some solid ‘90’s cheesy-action, then I have some great Keanu Reeves movies to suggest (or even some better Sly efforts). However, there is no real reason for you to ever watch Judge Dredd. It is, at worst, inane and, at best, slightly above mediocre. A solid musical score and some decent performances aside, it is entirely forgettable. Nothing in it is offensively bad or aggressively obnoxious. However, in the end, I’d much rather watch a movie that I like or dislike than one that I simply don’t care that I ever saw.

Jonathan’s Score: 5/10

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