In the year 2139, the Earth has changed into a virtually uninhabitable place called the Cursed Earth. All of the Earth's population have crowded into the cities across the planet, now known as Mega-Cities. The crimes in these Mega-Cities became so violent and so powerful, that the regular justice system was powerless to contain, then it collapsed completely. However, a new justice system came from the ashes, there were three justice systems in one (police, jury and executioner), they were called Judges. In Mega-City One (formerly, New York City), there was a Judge, named Joseph Dredd, who was the toughest and most stringent Judge in history. One day, he was charged with murder, and was tried and sentenced to life in prison because of it. Written by
Sylvester Stallone discussed his feelings about the movie in an issue of Uncut magazine in 2008:
"I loved that property when I read it, because it took a genre that I love, what you could term the 'action morality film' and made it a bit more sophisticated. It had political overtones. It showed how if we don't curb the way we run our judicial system, the police may end up running our lives. It dealt with archaic governments; it dealt with cloning and all kinds of things that could happen in the future. It was also bigger than any film I've done in its physical stature and the way it was designed. All the people were dwarfed by the system and the architecture; it shows how insignificant human beings could be in the future. There's a lot of action in the movie and some great acting, too. It just wasn't balls to the wall. But I do look back on Judge Dredd as a real missed opportunity. It seemed that lots of fans had a problem with Dredd removing his helmet, because he never does in the comic books. But for me it is more about wasting such great potential there was in that idea; just think of all the opportunities there were to do interesting stuff with the Cursed Earth scenes. It didn't live up to what it could have been. It probably should have been much more comic, really humorous, and fun. What I learned out of that experience was that we shouldn't have tried to make it Hamlet; it's more Hamlet and Eggs".
He later elaborated:
From what I recall, the whole project was troubled from the beginning. The philosophy of the film was not set in stone - by that I mean "Is this going to be a serious drama or with comic overtones" like other science fiction films that were successful? So a lotta pieces just didn't fit smoothly. It was sort of like a feathered fish. Some of the design work on it was fantastic and the sets were incredibly real, even standing two feet away, but there was just no communication. I knew we were in for a long shoot when, for no explainable reason Danny Cannon, who's rather diminutive, jumped down from his director's chair and yelled to everyone within earshot, "FEAR me! Everyone should FEAR me!" then jumped back up to his chair as if nothing happened. The British crew was taking bets on his life expectancy. See more »
In the desert, when Dredd and Ferguson are on a hill looking at the garbage tunnel, Dredd walks away. In the next shot they are standing next to each other, as if Dredd never moved. See more »
In the third millennium, the world changed. Climate, nations, all were in upheaval. The Earth transformed into a poisonous, scorched desert, known as "The Cursed Earth". Millions of people crowded into a few Megacities, where roving bands of street savages created violence the justice system could not control. Law, as we know it, collapsed. From the decay rose a new order, a society ruled by a new, elite force. A force with the power to dispense both justice and punishment. They ...
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Release the Pressure
Performed by Leftfield
Produced and Mixed by Leftfield
Published by Hard (U.K.) Hands Publishing Ltd.;
Lamps on Your Ears Music; BMG Music Publishing Ltd.
Leftfield appears courtesy of Columbia Records U.K. See more »
Got all the basics of some challenging material right
This film, and its generally poor reception is a good example of what happens when huge marketing mistakes are made. Take a look at the cover of the DVD package: "Stallone: Judge Dredd". The film should have been titled "Judge Dredd" - even in the packaging - and the emphasis for the marketing of this film should have been less Stallone, more content. On the flip-side, when the most consistent complaint you can find among IMDb psychofants is "HE TOOK OFF HIS HELMET!", you really have to wonder if the film is quite as bad as so many believe.
Eagle Comics 2000 AD character Judge Dredd was one of the most original, entertaining and intelligently written and interestingly drawn sci-fi comics of recent times. With story arcs varying from 2 pages worth of panels to 4 or 5 episodes, and sometimes multi-threaded plots, this violent, political and tough cyberpunk version of Dirty Harry set some pretty high standards for adult comic authorship both in its native UK and in the USA, once the imports started flowing in. It freely traversed from film noir to flat-out wild sci-fi action to nihilistic hard justice, and did so with style and originality rarely seen in the comic medium. Hence, although I like Stallone in this film, it's not only misleading but a little insulting to call this 'a Stallone film'. The producers had very big shoes to fill, and though I am in the minority here, I believe they did well.
The production team chose a story arc which I was never very fond of, but one of the more do-able ones to be sure. Any Dredd-based film would necessitate a huge special effects budget, and most of them, even with the best special effects available, would likely be nearly impossible to pull off and might look ridiculous. To their credit, the Return of Rico story arc was rightfully recognized as good film material - it involves more emotional content than the usual Dredd fare, and actually required fewer outrageous special effects, than, say, the many Judge Death arcs might have.
Dredd is a "street judge" - and the judges are the closest thing to a government in a post-apocalyptic future where nuclear war has concentrated all of the world's population into mega-cities - hotbeds of crime and chaos, surrounded by mutagenic wastelands called The Cursed Earth. Dredd is the best of the best, a very tough cop who knows method, theory, and has an incorrigible sense of ethics and dedication to the law. Dredd is also mentor to an entire generation of judges, including the brilliant Hershey (Lane). Rico, Dredd's former best friend, and a psychotic murderer escapes from a high security prison with some help from a fascistic leader of the judges who is bent on securing power and a new world order with himself in charge. Soon, Dredd is framed for murder and exiled to the wastelands, and judges start to die all over the city. About midway through the film, Dredd learns the truth of his relationship to Rico and begins to figure out the sinister plot. Of course, there is only one thing for him to do - return to Megalopolis to stop the conspiracy before it plays out.
The film features good performances by a really nice cast. Armand Assante brings the character of Rico to life better than the comic book ever did. Diane Lane, Jurgen Prochnow and Max Von Sydow are always good, and though I had my doubts to begin with, Stallone pulls off Dredd very well. While some folks complain about Rob Schneider's irritating behavior, I found that his goofy character took a little of the edge off of Stallone's depressive performance of the most stoic law enforcement officer on planet earth. This is not one of Joan Chen's better roles. If you're a big Chen fan, you might think twice about seeing this.
All considered, I see Judge Dredd as a under-rated and mis-marketed film, which, through its fast pace, sophisticated sci-fi plot, Excellent special effects and very good cast, took all of the screenable elements of the comic book and made them accessible to an audience a bit wider than its original fan-base. If this review peaks your interest, see it!
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