Judge Dredd

There’s an old computer term called WYSIWIG.  It comes from the days of dot-matrix printers and non-TrueType fonts that basically means what you see on the screen is what comes out on paper (this used to be a big problem, actually).  Judge Dredd is a perfect example of this concept applied to a movie.  To explain what I mean, just take a look at the trailer:

We’ve got guns, explosions, fights, chases, tree-trunk-sized action stars, and some sweet cathphrases too.  The film is pretty much everything you see in the trailer expanded to 90 minutes, but I ask you, is that a bad thing?  My answer is a resounding “no.”  We’re not talking Dark Knight or Terminator 2 here (despite a scene with Stallone riding his police chopper that looks like was ripped directly from T2), and there’s little in the way of subtext and certainly nothing even remotely resembling subtlety.  But this is precisely why I found the movie to be so entertaining.  It’s a straight-up action movie with a ripped-to-shreds Sylvester Stallone, lots of cool weapons, and a straightforward plot that never deviates from its purpose.  And to be honest, you just don’t see that too much anymore.  There’s even a cool enemy robot that’s (gasp!) an actual animatronic creature instead of a shiny, sterile CGI creation.  Is it cheesy?  Sure, but that’s part of the fun.  Don’t take this one too seriously–just grab a busket of popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the ride.

A thousand years from now, the earth is so overpopulated that the only practical way of doling out justice is through the use of Judges with the legal authority to arrest and sentence anyone on the spot.  Entrusted with high-tech crimefighting implements like multifunction handguns, impenetrable body armor, hover-cycles that break down the instant the rider hits the throttle, and a litany of cool quips like “Court’s adjourned” and “I’ll be the judge of that,” these judges run around town responding to threats with an expediency that would make our current legal system wet its collective legal pants.

Judge Dredd

Judge Dredd: He. Is. The. Law. Don't believe it? He'll tell you so.

Stallone, basically the Master Chief of Judges, is falsely convicted of a murder and sentenced to a plane ride next to Rob Schneider and must find a way to clear his good name before he ends up in a Deuce Bigalow movie.  Several explosions later he ends up back in Mega City on a mission to find his estranged brother who, wouldn’t you know it, is the evil genius behind it all.

Somehow Diane Lane and Max Von Sydow were tricked into joining the cast, along with ex soap opera heartthrob Armand Assante, which makes Judge Dredd a somewhat anomalous compilation of A-grade acting talent (Rob Schneider notwithstanding) in a B-level script.  Don’t come to the show expecting character development either–Dredd was genetically engineered to be the perfect crimefighting tool, so he possesses none of those inconvenient traits like empathy, love, or self-doubt that so often lead to such annoyances like interpersonal relationships or romantic conflicts.  But the movie never takes itself too seriously, and even Von Sydow seems to be winking at the camera during a few scenes.  Fortunately there’s an outstanding production value to the whole spectacle, so the death-deflying stunts, high-speed chases, and human/robot showdowns are all fantastically realized.

The cheese meter is maxed out here, but unlike Stallone’s other future-based blow ’em up movie, Judge Dredd is more entertaining than embarrassing.  Walking a fine line between Michael Bay excess and Uwe Boll stupidity, it’s an outstanding guilty pleasure that gives you exactly what you would expect without overstaying its welcome.  Watching Judge Dredd is kind of like going to McDonald’s and going all-out for the biggest Angus Burger on the menu.  It’s not fine cuisine, but it sure does get the job done.  And sometimes that’s all you want.


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