It’s the 22nd Century and most of the Earth has become a post-holocaust wasteland where the millions of survivors have been crowded into densely over-populated Mega Cities. With crime out of control, an elite police force known as The Judges was created and given the power to act as judge, jury and executioner, with Judge Dredd (Stallone) known as the most feared of them all. But while fiercely committed to upholding the law, Dredd suddenly finds himself framed for murder and is forced to clear his name…
Though some viewers now consider Judge Dredd as a so-bad-it’s-good guilty pleasure, many of us still hold it as just plain bad. At the time, of course, fans of 2000 AD’s long-running cult series centred their mouth-foaming disapproval around the fact that Dredd spends most of the movie with his helmet removed (something which, in the comics, is a big no-no), but its problems ran far deeper than that. Compromised by a troubled production which included creative differences between star Sly Stallone and filmmaker Danny Cannon, the ’95 adaptation ended up as a tonally uneven misfire which failed to make proper use of the source material. Where the graphic novels offered satirical and morally complex sci-fi, the movie plays as a generic nineties actioner. And not even a good one at that.
In truth, the opening fifteen minutes are reasonably promising and there’s some impressive visual work dotted throughout, but that’s about your lot. Despite nabbing recognisable elements from Blade Runner, Robocop and Return Of The Jedi, Dredd often feels like a poorer companion piece to Demolition Man (which remains an enjoyable slice of Sly), given the futuristic law enforcement, falsely-convicted Stallone hero and use of Rob Schneider as comic relief. Though Schneider gets a laugh with his “I am the loooaaawww” impersonation, in doing so he effectively highlights that what we’re watching is more of a low-end Sly Stallone movie than it is a Judge Dredd one, as the unknowable, enigmatic lawman from the comics is replaced with a stock Stallonian hero sporting blue contacts. Elsewhere Max von Sydow and Jurgen Prochnow bring class despite being given little to work with, while Armand Assante and Diane Lane feature as the villain and love interest respectively.
Though some viewers now consider Judge Dredd as a so-bad-it’s-good guilty pleasure, may of us still hold it as just plain bad.