Judge Dredd [Blu-ray] (1995)

Actors: Sylvester Stallone, Diane Lane, Armand Assante, Jurgen Prochnow, Rob Schneider
Director: Danny Cannon
Format: NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
Language: English (DTS-HD High Res Audio), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
Region: A/1
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Hollywood Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: September 18, 2012
Run Time: 96 minutes



It may be shocking and I’m not sure my family will ever live down the shame, but I need to say it:

I kind of dig Judge Dredd.

I say that will full knowledge that it’s not a very good movie, that it violates the beloved 2000 A.D. character in numerous ways, and that its box office failure in 1995 probably preserved civilization as we know it. But every time it pops up on cable, some small part of me goes “ooh!” I won’t justify that feeling, but neither will I deny that it exists: an indefensible guilty pleasure that I must now be called upon to defend.

First, the big boners. Sylvester Stallone takes his helmet off early in the proceedings, which should never be forgiven ever ever ever. (Credit the new film for getting it right while letting Karl Urban show us just how much Awesome you can exude with your mouth alone.) The attitude that created such a gaffe – “audiences want to see the star’s face and fuck whatever the real fans think” – led to further chunks of corporate-dictated idiocy, from Rob Schneider’s ill-conceived sidekick to the imbecilic cloning plot which took Dredd further from his roots. The action never dazzles us, while the villain (Armand Assante) sticks to a typical I-want-to-rule-the-world boilerplate. In most ways, the film is a big-budget misfire: the kind of overblown Hollywood product created by people who look upon the material solely as a means of separating our money from our wallets.

And yet . . .

Somewhere in the middle of all that, signs of the terrific source material come shining through. Helmet gaffe notwithstanding, Stallone actually makes a credible Dredd, with his implacable jaw and draconian adherence to the letter of the law. The art direction and costume design credibly evoke the towering future city the Judges call home, as do little touches throughout the screenplay (like a riot at the corners of Abbott and Costello). Many of the supplemental villains evoke the comics far more readily than the main one does, particularly the Angel gang with whom Dredd tangles during a sojourn outside the city walls.

To that, director Danny Cannon brings a decent sense of big-budget action, with workable set pieces and a reliable pacing that renders the proceedings more than watchable. The studio production that robbed the film of much of its soul also ensures a certain competence in the technical department, leaving it vaguely enjoyable in a Saturday-afternoon-on-the-Superstation kind of way.

That hardly constitutes a ringing endorsement, and I cannot in good conscience recommend this film in any sense of the term. But it doesn’t deserve the gobbling turkey condemnations heaped upon it in the past sixteen years, and if it can’t stay true to the title character, it at least delivers a little modest popcorn fun to those willing to lower their sights. Some small part of me really enjoys it for reasons I cannot fully comprehend, and I suspect that a few folks out there might feel the same way. That doesn’t mean you have to rush out and buy it . . . only that its grimy joys might sneak up on you if you give them half a chance.

THE DISC: For a quickie release designed to cash in on the new movie, the image and sound quality are surprisingly good. There’s a bit of grain in the video, but the colors are nice and sharp, and the HD justifies any potential upgrade. That’s a good thing, because the extra features consist only of the trailer and a badly dated behind-the-scenes special from the film’s 1995 release.

WORTH IT? Only if you can forgive the film its shortcomings, which a lot of people can’t. Fans – and I’m sure that some exist – will appreciate the comparatively high picture quality for a very modest sticker price.

RECOMMENDATION: Judge Dredd won’t top anyone’s must-see list, but – like the film itself – the Blu-ray is better than you might expect.

- Rob Vaux



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