After a number of rather average movies, including stints in the comedy genre, Sylvester Stallone decided to get back to his roots and do a full-blown action movie in 1994. "Judge Dredd" is the result, a no-holds-barred, futuristic action adventure that has now found its way to DVD through Buena Vista Home Entertainment. The film’s main character is based on a comic book series about a dark future where anarchy very nearly reigns. In this world, the crime rates have skyrocketed. In answer, the government has replaced parts of their judicial system with the "judges". They are the supreme authority: They embody police force, judge, and executioner in a single person. Heavily armored, trained to perfection and equipped with highly efficient, customized weapons, the judges roam the street of the dark metropolis Megacity. One of them has become legend. He ranks as the highest street judge and has been on the streets longer than any other judge. He is Judge Dredd (Sylvester Stallone). As you might expect, Dredd is a very controversial character. He is idolized by many of the other judges, especially the young cadets at the academy, but he is also feared, considered dangerous and a menace by more conservative parts of society. News anchors have made it their business to snoop in his work and denounce every step he takes.
One day, a high-ranking officer is killed, and the incident is captured on video. The killer wears the uniform of a street judge and Dredd’s badge. Dredd is immediately imprisoned and taken to court, where it also turns out that the bullet that killed the victim was clearly shot from Dredd’s lawgiver gun - a handgun locked by a device that takes and verifies a DNA sample before it allows handling and firing of the weapon. With this evidence, Dredd is sent to prison for life, but when the transportation shuttle is shot down by renegades in the desert, he escapes the flames and gets his chance to find the person who is framing him.
Director Danny Cannon created an atmospheric, tight film that is very well paced. Introducing us to the main characters, the film quickly breezes through the exposition and sets the main premise. From there on, the film becomes a non-stop thrill ride that takes us to exotic places and confronts us with a variety of fantastic events and characters.
The special effects are wild, although they cannot keep up with the marvelous designs of "The Fifth Element", for example. Still they present us with a cluttered, neo-stylized megacity, towering into the skies, where there is no room to escape or avoid the grip of violence.
As you would expect from an action movie like this, the film does not establish much background for the characters, simply giving them enough motivation to propel them through the story. "Judge Dredd" does a very good job with this, and with stars like Sylvester Stallone, Armand Assante, Jürgen Prochnov and Max Von Sydow, the cast is very strong to start with.
"Judge Dredd" is a role tailored for Sylvester Stallone and clearly the right vehicle for the actor. He is witty and occasionally charming - when the hard outside shell is broken and we can see deep into his torn, soft soul through his contact-lens-blue eyes. Armand Assante, a highly underrated actor, in the role of a renegade judge whose plan it is to overthrow the government and eliminate the judges, presents us with a clean-cut bad guy who is almost sympathetic on the surface, yet who reveals himself to be dark, ominous, and evil on the inside. Always emotional and rampaging like a furious animal, his bad guy nicely complements Jürgen Prochnov’s portrayal of the high ranking bad guy, he teams up with, who is stoic and almost ice cold.
"Judge Dredd" comes from Buena Vista Home Entertainment on a single-sided disc that contains the film’s widescreen version, preserving the movie’s original theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Although presented in a non-anamorphic transfer, the film looks incredibly crisp and detailed. As with some of their previous releases, Buena Vista once again prove that they are indeed capable of producing some of the sharpest DVDs out there. The image quality is very rich, with deep solid blacks and shadows that still contain plenty of detail and definition. Colors are vibrant faithfully reproduced with naturally rendered fleshtones. There is no pixelation or chroma noise to be found in this terrific looking transfer.
The film boast a "huge" 5.1 channel Dolby Digital soundtrack. As in many modern action movies, the bass extension is deep and powerful and the spatial usage of the surrounds is superb. Alan Silvestri added a score to this film that nicely enhances the atmosphere.
It is both, futuristic and menacing, always somewhat heroic, nicely complementing the larger-than-life persona of Judge Dredd. The disc comes dubbed in English and French and is also closed captioned in English. For some reason, Buena Vista are not supplying Spanish subtitles on this disc, which used to be standard on their previous releases. Since the disc contains a fully dubbed French soundtrack, I feel it would be appropriate to at least cater to Hispanic audiences with subtitles in their language.
Don’t expect too much from a film like "Judge Dredd". It is a film based on a comic character and it’s clearly designed to numb your senses. This is Hollywood big screen action cinema without inhibitions and it delivers the goods - fast, furious, and loud. It is a cool movie that brings the world of the comic to life in a spectacular fashion with great heroes and nasty bad guys… and the part of Judge Dredd is perfect for Sylvester Stallone.