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In The Future...One Man Is Judge, Jury and Executioner!
In a time when all-powerful and coldly efficient "Judges" act with the supreme authority of both the police force and legal system, Judge Dredd is the most feared law enforcer of them all. But when a former judge hatches a sinister plot to overthrow the government and eliminate the Judges, Dredd is framed for murder!
For more about Judge Dredd and the Judge Dredd Blu-ray release, see Judge Dredd Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on September 13, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Armand Assante, Rob Schneider, Jürgen Prochnow, Max von Sydow, Diane Lane
Director: Danny Cannon
» See full cast & crew
Judge Dredd Blu-ray Review
He Was the Law (Unto Himself)
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, September 13, 2012
Plagued by production delays and reported feuds between its star and director, Judge Dredd fizzled at the U.S. box office in the summer of 1995, though it did much better abroad, where Sylvester Stallone was still selling tickets. In his own backyard, Stallone's performance was mocked by critics, who also attacked the film's futuristic design as derivative (not without reason) and its effects as cheesy, which some of them were, due to time constraints. Stallone was nominated for a Razzie as worst actor, but he deservedly lost to Pauly Shore for Jury Duty. Time has been kind to Judge Dredd, vindicating those who enjoyed it sitting in the theater that summer (yes, I was one of them) and fans who have discovered it since on home video. By today's CGI standards, all of its effects look cheesy and dated, which is to say, they're largely practical or based on miniatures. After sitting through one cutting-edge computer-generated environment after another, filled with actors who seem increasingly detached from their surroundings, these kinds of productions have acquired new appeal. As for the film's derivative elements, who among us can keep count of the dystopian futurist tales to which we've been exposed in the last two decades? At some point, they all begin to look the same, and anything with a coherent story and a memorable character stands apart from the pack. Judge Dredd has both, and a lot more. The character originated in a 1977 comic series first published in the British anthology 2000 A.D. Director Danny Cannon, who was in his early twenties and had only made one previous film when he was tapped to direct, grew up reading the Dredd comics and had definite ideas about how the character should appear on film. Unfortunately, Stallone was the star, and he too had ideas, which included showing his face, unlike the graphic character, who never did. Entire books were written about the production battles, but that's too big a subject for this review.
The unmistakable (and uncredited) voice of James Earl Jones provides our introduction to the bleak future world of Judge Dredd. Humanity is crowded into a few habitable areas called "Mega-cities" that are walled off from the rest of the parched land known as the Cursed Earth. The overcrowded Mega-cities became anarchic and ungovernable until a new order was instituted, based upon the Law and enforced by Judges, each of whom combines the function of judge, jury and executioner. The greatest, most respected and fearsome is Judge Joseph Dredd (Stallone). As our introduction to how the system works, Dredd subdues a vicious "block war" in a vertiginous residential neighborhood, "judging" and mowing down dozens of combatants, including one of the warlord ringleaders (James Remar, Dexter's dad). His only assistance is a junior "street" judge named Hershey (Diane Lane) and a rookie who doesn't survive the operation. Caught up in the melee is Fergie (Rob Schneider), freshly paroled from Aspen Penitentiary. Truly an innocent bystander, he is nevertheless judged by Dredd as a repeat offender and returned to prison for a five-year term. It's the film's first hint that the Law may be overly severe. The Judges answer to a Council of Justices, of which the leader is Dredd's mentor, Chief Justice Fargo (Max von Sydow, classing up the production as always). After the severity of Dredd's handling of the block war, the Chief Justice orders his star pupil to spend two days a week at the Judges' Academy teaching, of all things, ethics to young cadets, including a rising star, Cadet Nathan Olmeyer (Balthazar Getty). Hershey reproaches Dredd for being too severe in his portrayal of a Judge's lonely existence, but this is life as Dredd understands it. He has no friends and resists all emotion. He had a friend once, but he had to judge him. Dredd's "friend" was actually his brother, Rico (Armand Assante), also a Judge. Contrary to what Dredd and the rest of the world believes, Rico isn't dead but in isolation under maximum security in Aspen Penitentiary. In a scene that recalls Demolition Man, Rico is brought a message from a secret "benefactor" by Warden Miller (Maurice Roëves), which provides an opportunity for a dramatic and bloody escape. After sneaking back into Mega-city, Rico obtains arms, a Judge's uniform and a massive battle robot from the last major war, the one that created the Cursed Earth. It's an impressive killing machine that Rico successfully reactivates and places under his control. Then he sets about the task ordered by the mysterious benefactor: assassinating a crusading reporter, Vartis Hammond (Mitch Ryan), who has uncovered evidence about some sort of plot in the Council of Judges. One more detail: Rico kills Hammond (and his wife) on camera while successfully impersonating Dredd. Dredd, who can't dispute the Law, is tried, convicted and sentenced to death, but his surrogate father, Chief Justice Fargo, is able to spare his life by resigning and invoking an old custom that the last wish of a resigning Justice be granted. Fargo's successor, Justice Griffin (Jürgen Prochnow), who suggested the strategy—gee, I wonder why?—commutes Dredd's sentence to life imprisonment. Just like in The Fugitive, though, Dredd's prison shuttle is shot down en route, and Dredd has to fight his way through numerous obstacles back to Mega-city, accompanied by Fergie, who just happened to be seated next to him for the aborted trip to prison. Meanwhile, Rico is pursuing a crazy plan involving world domination, assisted by a mad scientist, Dr. Hayden (Joan Chen), and Dredd is learning dark secrets about himself and the Council that force him to reconsider the truths by which he's lived his life. Really, though, the latter half of the film is all about fireballs, bullets, brawn, explosions, flying motorcycles, killer robots and comic relief from Fergie (who does a wickedly funny Dredd impression). All that stuff about "the Law" pretty much goes out the window, or, to be more precise, over the side of the Statue of Liberty, which, in its newly transplanted location, is where Rico and Dredd have their final battle.
Judge Dredd Blu-ray, Video Quality
Judge Dredd was shot by the late Adrian Biddle (whose last film before his untimely death of a heart attack at age 52 was V for Vendetta). Even at the time, in the pre-digital intermediate era, the film was striking for the clarity of its imagery and the intensity of its blues. Disney's 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray ranks in the upper tier of their recent round of catalog releases, reproducing Biddle's shimmering images with a touch less "pop" than I'd like to see (and it's rare that anyone will hear me say that), but with an appropriately saturated palette that fully differentiates between the steely blue and gray world of the Judges and the more colorful cacophony of the rest of Mega-city (not to mention the sickly yellow of the Cursed Earth). Detail is sufficiently well rendered that you can easily tell, as you could with a good film print in 1995, which effects shots were rushed at the last minute. Black levels and shadow detail are good, and there is no evidence of detail filtering or artificial sharpening. The film's grain structure is visible, but it's extremely fine. Nothing in the way of compression artifacts presented itself.
Judge Dredd Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There's nothing subtle or restrained about Judge Dredd's DTS-HD MA 5.1 track. It's loud, aggressive and in-your-face, like the title character. None of the weapons sound like ordinary gunfire; they're all ramped-up superguns. The crash of the prison transport in the Cursed Earth is especially impressive, if you like your effects noisy, as is the grand finale in Dr. Hayden's lab. A chase sequence involving airborne police scooters offers some nice panning effects, and Rico's robot is good for a few bass notes. In general, those who enjoy bombastic action tracks can expect a good time. One doesn't watch Judge Dredd for the dialogue, but it's clear and intelligible, even with Stallone and Assante trying to outslur each other. Alan Silvestri's score is frequently drowned out by the effects, but when you hear it, it strikes the appropriately martial tone. (The balance in favor of the effects isn't a fault of the Blu-ray; it's always been mixed like that.)
Judge Dredd Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Judge Dredd Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Of course, the reason for Disney to release Judge Dredd on Blu-ray at this moment is the imminent release of Dredd 3D by Lionsgate in theaters. All signs point to this new film being an entirely different take on the character. For one thing, Karl Urban's Dredd never removes his helmet in the trailer, which is a good sign. Regardless of how the new Dredd turns out, Stallone's version will always be a unique creation. Disney has done a capable job with the Blu-ray. Highly recommended for fans; if you're new to the Judge Dredd experience, you might want to rent first.
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Judge Dredd Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Upcoming Disney Catalog Releases for 2012 (Updated) - June 26, 2012
This year, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment will bring over thirty catalog entries to Blu-ray. The scheduled films span across Disney's different distribution branches, and while the studio has previously hinted at certain titles - such as The Color of Money, ...
• Judge Dredd Blu-ray - June 23, 2012
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment will release on Blu-ray Danny Cannon's Judge Dredd (1995), starring Sylvester Stallone, Armand Assante and Rob Schneider. Exact technical specs, region coding status and supplemental features to be included on this release ...
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