The Action Mutant…
review by Joe Burrows
(written September 18, 2007)
Seriously, watch it! Especially if you thought I was joking about the John Rambo trailer. And if it is taken off of Youtube by the time you get around to it, just imagine The Simpsons doing a trailer for the film and it’s about the same result. We’re talking McBain-esque levels here! Speaking of McBain-esque…
The Plot, as it was:
Sly Stallone plays Judge Joseph Dredd, the best of all of the street judges in Mega City 1 (the “judges” arrest and prosecute on the spot in crowded metropolises that are apart of “the Cursed Earth”, as the story is set in 2139. It sounds all official because it’s read by James Earl Jones.). A Judge that Dredd sent to prison named Rico (Armand Assante) has escaped and framed Dredd for the murder of a journalist and his wife. Rico has also joined up with a corrupt Judge (Jurgen Prochnow) to unleash a species of clones onto the public to basically stir up chaos and a bloodthirsty robot that will kill on command. Dredd must clear his name with the help of his partner Hershey (Diane Lane) and deal with the constant annoyance of a computer hacker (Rob Schneider) that escapes along with him.
Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
When Judge Dredd first hit theaters, fans of the cult British comic book it was based on were mad that Dredd would spend the majority of the film with his helmet off (as the comic book version of Dredd never had his helmet off). They should have been more offended that a better movie didn’t bother to reveal itself. For all of its sound and fury (and there’s plenty), Dredd is pretty much Blade Runner without the brains or the heart; Robocop without the attitude or satirical edge. With Stallone at the wheel, it is basically Rambo with a badge. Sly’s constant muttering of his catchphrase for the movie (“I knew you’d say that!”) and the sanctimonious self-assurance Dredd possesses as we go through the film doesn’t endear him well to the viewer. Stallone’s performance is very ripe to be sure, as the filmmakers had the sense to provide him with veterans like Prochnow and Max Von Sydow to add cred to the story. Unfortunately, Rob Schneider gets far too much screen time as the “comic relief” that provides very few laughs. It doesn’t help I have contempt for the man who can only seem to secure a job if the script calls for an annoying sidekick or it’s an Adam Sandler production. The scenes with Stallone and longtime compatriot Assante together are absolutely hilarious in the most wrong way possible. Thankfully, Assante does provide a nice balance in the sense that Stallone under-acts while Assante overacts to the point of sheer delirium. Armand merely doesn’t just chew the scenery; he swallows it, shits it out and feverishly throws it up against the wall, even if it doesn’t bother to stick. With a description like that, you’d be right to guess that he makes the film watchable, even in a train wreck sense. The man is his own special effect and he sure as hell didn’t add the most to the bloated $90 million this cost to make. I mean, the sets look nice and appropriately cluttered but we’re still talking $90 million of recycled story, as there is everything from a marauding band of cannibals (The Hills Have Eyes) to an enforcing villain robot (Robocop). At least there weren’t dastardly Viet Cong soldiers or snarling arm wrestlers added to the mix.
Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- TAM favorite James Remar (48 Hrs., Drugstore Cowboy) goes uncredited as the block warlord in the opening sequence.
- Scott Wilson (In Cold Blood) is also uncredited, playing Pa Angel (the cannibal patriarch).
- Adrienne Barbeau is the uncredited mainframe computer voice, like she was in the John Carpenter version of The Thing.
Body Count/Violence: 83! Can you imagine Hollywood Pictures repeatedly appealed to the MPAA for a PG-13 rating on this one? While nowhere near the levels of violence of other Sci-Fi/Action epics, there is still plenty of mindless carnage to abound. Aside from lots of shooting, fights and explosions, there’s also death by spearing, electrocution, neck breaking, arms being ripped off, being thrown from buildings, roasting over an open spit, etc. Quite a few of the kills are off-screen though, which shows there was some concerted effort to edit content out.
Sexuality/Nudity: None, which is disappointing considering Diane Lane and Joan Chen are in the movie. Sure, they’re in skin tight black bodysuits for most of their screen time but it’s not the same.
Language/Dialogue: Very mild, with only one F-stick making the rounds.
How bad was it?:
Critics savaged this just like every other film in Stallone’s fabled career. In fact, our star was nominated for a Worst Actor Razzie for his performance here (as well as in Assassins). Other critics mostly cited the assembly line of clichés and overall empty feel of the film.
Did it make the studio’s day?:
Coming to theaters from Hollywood Pictures on 6/30/95, Judge Dredd finished 5th its opening weekend, being beat out by new competition in Apollo 13 and…*snicker* the first Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers movie. If you sport a $90 million budget and don’t finish in the top spot, you’re pretty screwed from the start and Dredd was just that. It dropped out of the top 10 three weeks later and would end its American run with a disastrous $34.7 million. It would garner $78.8 million overseas (bringing the total to $113.5 million worldwide) but this was the first in a long series of flops that would kill Stallone’s career for the next decade plus.
Entertainment value: ***1/2/*****
Copyright 2007 The Action Mutant.