Instead, JUDGE DREDD went down as one of the biggest disappointments of the year, a huge critical and commercial flop and another skid stain in the descent of Stallone's career. And it's easy to see why.
JUDGE DREDD is loud and contrived. It is poorly edited with a guaranteed cliché every ten minutes. It flows with as much ease as a sandpaper Slip 'N Slide. While it cost $70M, huge dollars back in '95, today it looks like something you'd see on the CW.
Stallone, his pupils blanketed by icy blue contacts, alternates between so-so and apathetic in his titular performance. He does, however, spew his ridiculous dialogue with the zeal of a man falsely convinced the words will become catchphrases. (How could he not see the folly in a line like, "I should have taken care of you myself -- personally"? Well, what exactly can you take care of yourself but not personally?).
The supporting crew is no aid. Armand Assante, our evil-for-the-sake-of-being-evil villain, is given surprisingly little to do except cackle like a Saturday morning cartoon baddie. Diane Lane looks like she's trying but never fits into the nonsensical mishmash. Comic relief Rob Schneider serves up exactly one laugh ("We don't have time for this" he disgustingly remarks as Stallone unclothes a judge to pilfer his uniform) and is generally annoying otherwise.
The whole thing is overseen by Englishman Danny Cannon, then an inexperienced director in his mid-20s who was inexplicably handed the keys to this wreck. The action sequences -- of which there are actually few -- are not Cannon's strength. He seems confused and over his head, not knowing quite what to do other than shout "Action!" on random, pointless explosions and trite fighting sequences. One suspects there must be a director's cut of this film floating around somewhere that makes far more sense than what made it into theatres.
But I'm convinced that the biggest reason JUDGE DREDD was an unexpected failure is its appearance and source material. With his gold-armor-covered spandex and very plasticy helmet, Stallone looks like Captain Power, the hero of the 1980s TV show at which children fire their light-sensing guns. Sure it's a faithful replication of the comic-book Judge Dredd, but who cares? Judge Dredd was (and still is) such an obscure character that to think his name recognition would draw bums into theatre seats is naïve to the point of absurdness.
Who didn't want to like this movie? Stallone, despite his many poor career decisions (this being perhaps the worst... and that's saying something!), is a great action hero. But this is just a mismatch for him, and I can't imagine he was pleased with how it turned out. The final verdict: mindlessly mediocre.