Judge Dredd (1995)

Judge Dredd Blu-ray cover

Just as happened with Captain America, a big company is bringing out a superhero catalog movie to tie into the upcoming release of a much better relaunch. This time, it’s Disney putting the 1995 Sylvester Stallone Judge Dredd on Blu-ray just before the new film opens in theaters. This Blu-ray will be available Tuesday, September 18. (It’s also timely with Stallone’s career renaissance in The Expendables movies.)

My favorite part was the opening credits, which took place over images of the comics featuring the character. It was neat to see so much classic 2000 AD art assembled. I also liked how all the writers and artists who created these characters were acknowledged in the credits.

Judge Dredd Blu-ray cover

I also enjoyed noting some small touches. I’ve always enjoyed Alan Silvestri’s dramatic soundtracks, for instance, and I didn’t realize that the “armour costume” was designed by Gianni Versace. (Which might explain the spandex, the unnecessary shiny chain, and the armored codpiece.) Among citizens, it’s nice to see that the hoodie remains a popular article of clothing even in the far future.

The effects stand up very well on Blu-ray, if a tad Blade Runner-esque. They have been digitally restored, both picture and sound, for this release. The performances, however, are generally unbelievable. In his first appearance as the character, Stallone bellows “I am… duh law.” And yeah, it’s just as you expect.

The armor looks like spray-painted plastic. Stallone’s Judge is most believable when shooting at people. We’re only 16 minutes into the movie before he takes off his helmet, a contradiction to the comic character, whose face has never been shown. I did find the blue eyes they’d given him for the film striking, however. (Especially since Stallone’s eyes are brown.) Later scenes give Stallone more to do. When he’s training newcomers, for instance, his speech about what they’ll have to do is inspirational and gives the character more depth.

Rob Schneider is cringing comic relief who returns when this becomes a mismatched buddy comedy with the two on the run. Diane Lane tries hard, emoting over the death of the rookie who might as well have been wearing a red shirt. She’s trying to humanize Stallone’s bull-like presence, but everything looks cheesy in this film. She’s very cute, though.

Dredd never questions his sole authority to sentence and/or kill lawbreakers, even when the laws make no sense. The plot has him framed for murder for killing a reporter. It’s a scheme by Armand Assante, the insane genius bad guy, a former Judge gone bad (although one does wonder how you’d tell). That’s the excuse for keeping Stallone’s mask off for the rest of the film — he’s a prisoner, then on the run, trying to regain his authority. The film goes through four or five genres in its hour and 36 minutes, making it something of a bargin if you’re looking for smorgasbord.

Although the ending is somewhat unsatisfying — yet true to character, in terms of shrugging once the status quo is reset — and the romantic element unnecessary and unbelievable, ultimately, this movie wasn’t as bad as I feared. It’s a perfectly reasonable choice if you’re interested in indulging in a sci-fi action flick. It even has futuristic hillbilly cannibals.

In addition to English, the film is available in French, Spanish, and Portugese on this disc. There are two special features included: the theatrical trailer (2 minutes) and a 20-minute featurette, “Stallone’s Law: The Making of Judge Dredd”. This is a typical promotional item, dating from around the time of the movie, with the actors explaining their roles, director Danny Cannon talking about his vision for the film, lots of discussion of the special effects, and so on. Schneider is particularly interesting talking about how hard action movies are to make. (The studio provided a review copy.)

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