Judge Dredd (1995)
Rated R (US), 15 (UK)
Judge Dredd Sylvester Stallone! Stoic cop, who is also a judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one. Despite his seemingly infinite background in judicial law, his vocabulary extends to telling people how predictable they are.
Fergie Rob Schneider! I can just imagine the first script read through. 'Hey! Guys! I've only got about four lines? What else do I do in this film?' Director: Scream.
Judge Fargo Max Von Sydow! Ming the Merciless has shaved and decided to enforce a dress code not dissimilar to the high command of the Star Wars Republic. Small wonder that your top staff are all corrupt. Ends up like a shish-kebab.
Judge Hershey Or should I call you Judge b***h? No? Oh, alright then. Street-wise street judge who spends the entire film trying to find a personality in Stallone. Although never mentioned, I assumed her first name is Adrianne...
Judge Griffin Corrupt judge on the Council Of Judges, although his motives are slightly ambiguous. Rather than being an evil genius, he seems more like someone who desperately wanted peace on the streets but chose the wrong person to advise him on the matter. Pulled apart like a Cheese-string.
Rico Armand Assante! Another bad dude with slightly ambiguous motivations. Starts off wanting to control Mega City 1 (why!? It's a mess!) but at the end it seems he just wants a proper family dinner, with Dredd helping him to carve the chicken or peel the potatoes. Thrown off the Statue of Liberty and probably still falling as we speak.
The Angel Family Honey, I Butchered Some Inbreds. Includes a 'boy' who is half man, half machine. Although on reflection, he looks more like no man, all machine but with someone's skin draped haphazardly over the top like a poncho. Killed to death by Dredd (with a little help from his friends).
Assorted others A motley crew of also-rans, plot devices and comic relief whose motivation seems to extend towards either killing or kissing Dredd's arse.
I have a theory about Bad Movies; a simple formula or chart that (as a whole) defines what is truly great and what often goes horribly wrong. Basically, the theory runs thus: The quality of a B-Movie is the size and scope of a writer/directors imagination and creativity against the amount of money available. The theory stands around the premise that an almighty imagination shackled by a poor budget will come up with interesting and inventive ways around the problem. Example Bad Taste by Peter Jackson. A load of mates with weapons made of timber running around during their spare weekends for three or four years with almost no money. Result Hilariously inventive film with a thick streak of DIY black humour. Conversely, throwing lashings of money at someone with absolutely no imagination guarantees a lazy swamp of a film filled with forced dialogue, special effects, repulsive characters and a story arc like a collapsed suspension bridge. Example Any of the most recently made Star Wars films you care to mention.
Now that I have bored you to death with all of that, I'm going to say right here and now that I am totally and utterly WRONG and that my theory is in fact a large pile of excrement. And the irrefutable proof that condemns my theory is this very expensive, special effect ridden film that is just about the funniest thing since Chrysippus died laughing after watching his drunk donkey trying to eat a plate of figs.
The first thing I should say about Judge Dredd is that I have never read any of the comic books, I have absolutely no idea about the back story or who half the characters are. Seasoned 2000AD fans are probably going to gnash their teeth at some of my misinformed opinions, but as a total outsider it means I can judge (hey!) the film on its own merits.
Basically, what I am saying is, don't blame me. Blame the film.
Anyway, the plot. The Earth has been ravaged for some unknown reason and everyone is desperate not to live in an area annoyingly called the Curs-Ed Earth, rather than just the Cursed Earth. Aside from a penal colony packed away in Aspen (mmhmm, see what you did there...) the rest of the US is packed into two Mega Cities, although the film concerns itself with Mega City 1, a vast metropolis with more than a nod towards the similarly dank, post-industrial areas in Blade Runner and Super Mario Bros. I half expected at any given moment for Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper to charge through a window being chased by Harrison Ford. Whilst wearing ridiculous boots and holding a tiny Bob-omb.
Also, whilst we are talking about those two films what is this genre's obsession with punk rockers ruling the Earth in the future? Will everyone in the 22nd century have mohawks, bondage trousers and listen to Judas Priest?
Is this the death of rhythm and blues?
Dredd is a street judge with a suitably imposing name. He is part of a group of elite cops who dispense justice in the form of bullets for any crime above jaywalking and littering. One guy gets his car blown up just for what seems like a parking infringement, which seems a little over the top especially when you consider that there may have been people walking past on the sidewalk when Dredd decided it needed a grenade rather than a tow-truck and a summons. Dredd is clearly the man anyone who even smells his farts instantly goes into some sort of... well, dread. Bullets even shun him in an early comical scene during which he stands in the middle of a cross-fire and announces that he is safe because they are firing out of range. Tell that to the vast crowd of people we watched being mown down just a few minutes before right where you were standing, knucklehead.
Speaking of bullets, I have a few questions about the LawGun, or whatever it was called. Now, as I am white, British and middle class, the closest thing I've had to pack heat with is a paintball gun or the fictional PP7 from Goldeneye 007 on the N64. So I'm not really qualified to talk about ammunition, or magazine rounds or even calibers. What I think I am qualified to ask questions about though is a gun that carries a flaming signal flare and grenades in the same clip. What. The. Dickens. I mean, I'm willing to suspend my belief that such a large amount of diverse ammo can fit into one gun. I'll accept that with a frown. But why isn't this thing blowing people's hands off when the grenade comes into contact with the flare?
Just one of many questions I have, and will indeed ask...
On with the plot. Judge Griffin, a corrupt Judge with a face like it was carved in stone by someone with mild Parkinsons, decides he wants to restore order by re-opening the Janus project. This was a project to create perfect street judge clones who would be faster, stronger and more inarticulate than ordinary human beings. Two such products of Janus were Dredd and Rico, but whilst one became the incorruptible lawman, the other became evil and murdered innocents. To be honest, if you are going to name something after a two-faced Roman God then you are asking for trouble. To achieve this, Griffin needs to get rid of the similarly incorruptible Judge Fargo, head of the Council, who would veto any plan to re-open the files. Griffin plots to frame Dredd for a crime only he could possibly commit (and at the same time eliminate a few journalists close to uncovering the truth about the Janus project) by springing Rico from Aspen Penal Colony. As a clone, Rico essentially has Dredd's genetics and his DNA. I don't want to get into the complications of a gun that can read DNA, so I'm going to over-simplify and say they have the same fingerprints. It's probably true, even if they don't look remotely alike.
Question two. Why are the prison officials so damn trusting?
I'm serious, this entire plot could have been stopped very early on had the governor of Aspen not willingly handed Rico a small box disguised as a gun, whilst standing in his cell with no armed guards. Didn't you think to even check what it might be before handing it over to your most dangerous criminal? That was a rhetorical question. Of course he didn't, the stupid chimp.
So anyway, the plot unfolds and Rico escapes, before dressing up as a Judge with a forged badge and annihilating a couple of journalists with a Lawgiver, now covered with Dredd's fingerprints. Despite a spirited defence by Judge Hershey, our crowbarred love interest and a woman seemingly intent on the impossible task of finding Dredd's personality, the big lawman goes to Aspen in the company of Fergie. Fergie is what is known in the game as a habitual criminal, whom Dredd sent back to prison a matter of hours after he had been released from his last stretch. Although in fairness, Dredd does send him back to Aspen for the heinous crime of wanting to stay alive in the company of some murderous lunatics. In a moment of self-sacrifice, Judge Fargo retires in a bid to stop Dredd getting the death penalty with his last wish as a departing judge, Dredd's sentence is commuted to life. Fargo is packed off to the Cursed Earth to preach to absolutely bloody no-one and without even sandwiches or a bottle of water. He is given a Book of Law and a gun though. Not very edible and not very helpful either if you want to preach the law but whilst holding the BFG-9000 at someone who has probably never seen it before.
With Mega City 1's top law enforcer out of the way (apparently although on evidence, his efforts to stop the violence seem akin to urinating on an oil rig fire), and Fargo no longer on the Council, Griffin asks Rico for chaos. If the crime rate rises rapidly, the remaining Council of Judges will have no choice but to re-open Janus, which they do. Rico stays on the ground causing merry hell with his mechanical pet/bodyguard, picked up on the way from an antiques weapon shop. It's no exaggeration to say that this thing could eat several brick sh*t houses for breakfast and still have time to sink an aircraft carrier just by skydiving onto it. Subjugated council. Janus open. Backed up by a metal leviathan. So far, so good for the forces of evil.
Things start to come unstuck for Team Facist after Dredd's transport vessel to Aspen is shot down, although this probably came as a relief to him as he was being menaced by a fellow prisoner who was trying to slit his throat with a knife hidden in his boot. Why Does No One Perform A Security Search On Prisoners? Everyone is killed except Dredd and Fergie (some by the crash and some by a re-con team on the orders of Griffin). Captured by the Angel family, and I use the word family in the loosest possible term, Dredd and Fergie are strung up to be devoured by Pa and his two and a half sons. The witless pair are then killed and eaten, and the Angel family recline into their seats to pick out sinew with toothpicks carved from bone.
No, of course not. Dredd and Fergie escape, with a little help from Judge Fargo who coincidentally happened to be strolling in the same region of a desert the size of the US, but is brutally impaled by Mean, the Angel family's youngest. Dredd picks up his fallen mentor's BFG and finishes the job on anything with a pulse.
Having learned from Fargo's dying breaths about Janus, Dredd sees his only course of action. Find Rico. After a ludicrous scene during which Dredd and Fergie re-enter Mega City 1 via one of the vents in the enormous walls that circumference the city, they find themselves in the middle of a maelstrom. Judges are dying at a massive rate and the power drain from Janus is knocking out much of the city power. After an insane hover-bike chase, during which a lot of property gets totally destroyed and a few thousand lives are probably lost, Dredd and Fergie find themselves back at the Council offices. The duo are reunited with Hershey and the three of them make their way to the Statue of Liberty, which apparently was removed from its current location and plonked down in the middle of Mega City one as a cover up for the Janus labs.
I'm just going to let that one go, I think. Yeah. Probably best to.
Meanwhile, Team Facist's fortunes are on the wane. Rico becomes angered at the slow rate of the cloning process and throws out the original batch of DNA in exchange for his own. Which technically doesn't make sense, because he was created from the original batch, so surely it would be exactly the same. It's like emptying a cup of water, re-filling it with water and then saying it is a different drink. Griffin's protests about the change of batch are met with deaf ears and he is pulled apart by Rico's metal monster. Mind you, the man was an idiot anyway. In an earlier scene, the Council try and put the genie back in the bottle but Rico appears and kills the remaining members. Hearing the gunshots, Dredd races to the scene and confronts Griffin. Rather than just calling for help from the guards (bearing in mind Dredd is public enemy number one at the moment, holding a gun with the Council lying in their own blood), he shoots himself in the arm and blames it on Dredd and his companions, implying that the Council was mown down but he seemingly escaped with a single wound. Dredd is a wanted man; Griffin the new head of the Council. It seemed a bit unnecessary to go to the trouble of sticking a bullet through your arm.
The film ends with a pitched battle inside the Janus labs than eventually spills out into the broken head of the Statue of Liberty Dredd and Rico pounding lumps out of each other in one room and Hershey and some other girl fighting like a couple of stray cats. Fergie remains in the labs clutching his abdomen after being shot by Rico's bodyguard, which in turn is disabled by Fergie climbing on its back and unplugging it. Talk about a meeting of minds. After a brief scene from Cliffhanger, a lot of one-liners and a distinct lack of punching, Rico is hurled off the top of the Statue to plummet to his death and no doubt kill whatever poor innocent he happens to land on. Hershey kills the lab assistant and helps Dredd from the brink. She kisses him, there's a convenient plot device whereupon the Central Computer (Holly from Red Dwarf, only well spoken) broadcasts the Janus project to the rest of the city thereby exonerating Dredd from the crime he didn't commit and Fergie goes to hospital to have bullets removed from the guts he doesn't have. Everyone is happy and cheering, the end. Although presumably this happy equilibrium doesn't last. Unless there is a deleted scene that shows Dredd at the job centre because of the outbreak of world peace.
You can say what you like about world peace, but just think of the unemployment.
I get the impression, with the special effects and the silly plot, that this had all the makings of a dreadfully boring film (a film that actually rips off the Star Wars series on numerous occasions... as if that particular udder hasn't been suckled into a stalactite by a whole host of sci-fi directors and George Lucas himself). Thankfully, it was saved by the dialogue, which is the most fantastically stupid and camp body of words since Flash Gordon first appeared on our screens and gave us an Alpha Hero; delivered with such deadpan by Stallone, you can never be entire sure if he knows how bad it is or if he is taking it seriously. And according to the director, Danny Cannon, we have Stallone himself to thank for this, after he more or less re-wrote the entire original script. Thank you Sylvester. I don't care if you had your tongue-in-cheek or you were being serious. Thank you.
Ultimately though, despite the amazing dialogue, the larger than life characters and the silly set pieces, the film still left me with more unanswered questions.
-Why, if the city is so overcrowded and with the technology available to them, don't the City planners expand the boundaries further into the Cursed Earth?
-What Cursed the Cursed Earth in the first place?
-Why does the street judge's bullet proof armour only cover the shoulders and leave the chest and stomach exposed?
-Why go to the trouble of moving the Statue of Liberty and drawing so much attention to it, when the intention is to hide something?
And most importantly
-Why don't more movie directors give Stallone a script, a bottle of whiskey and 24 hours?
Things I Learned From This Movie:-
Nothing! Well... ok, a few things...
Flying cars are not the answer to reducing traffic congestion.
In the future, punk will rule the Earth.
Armand Assante is not impressed by traditional My wife's so frigid... jokes
George Lucas has never seen this. Otherwise, we would've heard about the lawsuit.
(Having just killed a gang of gun-toting maniacs)
Dredd - This room has been pacified...
Dredd - How do you plead?
Any number of people in the film - Not guilty!
Dredd - I knew you'd say that.
Dredd - The legendary Angel family. Cursed Earth pirates, murderers, scavengers, and of course scumbags!
Junior Angel - Lemme kill 'im Pa, I wan' his ears!
Rico - I betrayed this. Your council's experiment which failed. In you. I was your brother, your blood, your friend. Who betrayed who? When are you gonna stop being a goddamn slave and grow up? That's your birthright, that's your family. I'm your family, I'm the only family you ever had.
Stuff To Watch Out For:-
4mins RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE AGAINST EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING!
6mins - Back-up needed on the corner of Abbot and Costello...
11mins Ouch! Slammed against a wall by his mandible.
30mins I'm assuming the members of their family aren't present in the court to watch the couple get butchered over and over again.
51mins Whoa! Obi-Wan packing heat! Oh, wait. It's Max Von Sydow. Ming the Merciless packing heat!
56mins Reminds me of Yoda's death scene. Even made the same noises.
63mins They ran forward into the exhaust vent, didn't turn any corners, and now the fire is behind them. Riight.
66mins Hahaha! Hey Dredd, I thought it was you. But his lips didn't move!
68mins I haven't seen such a lack of care for the general public by the so-called authorities since the army blew up New York in 1998's Godzilla.
70mins One flying bike caused all that? What was in that building? Nitro-glycerine?
75mins Not wise to fire explosive rounds at the robot. It IS still holding her after all...