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Today’s Netflix pick takes us back to the the 90s, when Sylvester Stallone was having a rebirth of sorts, finding his way out of the Rocky and Rambo franchises and experimenting with some big action titles that put his physique and acting style to good use. While both those film series seem perfect for the muscular actor, if there was ever a part tailor made from Stallone, it would have to be Dredd. Cartoonish action with broad-shouldered kick-buttery. And yes, the movie is not a great story by any standard, but it is nonetheless a great watch, full of outstanding visual effects and production design, not to mention a terrifically over-the-top performance from Stallone that is one of his best over-the-top topness. And that’s saying something.
THE STORY: The future isn’t so bright (and James Earl Jones tells us so). In the 2080s, the world has gone to pot with the place becoming “The Cursed Earth”. While humanity, or what’s left of it, is crammed into city states where the law has changed. Police are now empowered to be officers, judges, jury, and executioners. These Judges roam the cities, led by the notorious Judge Dredd (Stallone), who patrols Mega-City One, where he’s partnered with first-year Judge Hershey (Diane Lane), a good Judge not so cynical as her mentor. Meanwhile, a former Judge named Rico (Armand Assante), who went rogue and sent to prison for his crimes, gets help to escape, heading to the city to cause some major chaos. Oh, and sidekick Rob Schneider does his best ‘Rob Schneiderist’ through it all.
In the interim, Dredd gets pinned for a murder he didn’t commit and sent to a penal colony but his ship is shot down in very hostile territory though he’s taken in by an old friend who spills the beans on a nasty conspiracy involving the Judges. Time to head back and start taking names. It’s really a lot like Demolition Man, just more silly. And all these years later, makes for an excellent popcorn flick.
WHY YOU NEED TO WATCH: First of all, yes, this is a cornball comic book adaptation with extra cheese, with Stallone propped up like a cardboard cut out for much of the runtime, his (and the other Judges) uniforms so hilariously overdone, they look like something even Joel Schumacher would reject for a Batman movie. And that is precisely why it’s awesome. Stallone saunters around barrel-chested, spouting out one-liners in full-on action hero cliché mode and yet still manages to make it fun, something he’s always had a gift for.
But the real winner is the look of the film, the sets and costumes still breathtaking to look at even twenty years on with a lived in, gritty feel to it all that is captured quite well. Mean Machine Angel (Chris Adamson, above) is proof enough that the movie takes its effects more than seriously. That’s one badass baddie. The details in everything about the film from the weapons to the vehicles to the street lights and beyond all look authentic and while the CGI is a little obvious in some of the larger shots, the movie itself deserves praise in bringing this world to life.
With a great supporting cast, including the incomparable Max Von Sydow, Judge Dredd attempts a few political shenanigans to add some depth to the violence, but it is the violence (or trimmed version of it) itself that robs the story from being truly connected to the source material, which is exceedingly graphic. This was corrected in the remake but still not to where it ought to be. Still, Judge Dredd is a classic throwback that is better now than it was then. Streaming on Netflix, give this one a look. It’s pure schlocky fun.