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Featured Blu-ray Review: Judge Dredd

September 16th, 2012

Judge Dredd - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

With Dredd coming out on Friday, it makes sense to release the original Judge Dredd on Blu-ray for the first time. The 1995 version of the film wasn't a big hit, nor did it win over many critics. Is it better than its reputation? Or were moviegoers right to avoid the movie the first time?

The Movie

The film begins with a title scroll describing how the climate collapsed and with it went the world governments. People moved into megacities, but the crime skyrocketed leading to a new brand of law and order. An elite force of Judges were tasked with keeping order. They were judge, jury, and executioner. The most famous of these was Judge Dredd.

The plot begins with Herman "Fergie" Ferguson being released from prison after a short sentence. While trying to get to his new living assignment, he's dropped off in the middle of a citizen riot. And when he gets to his new apartment, he finds a gang inside using his place to shoot at the riot below. This of course is reason for the Judges to arrive, including Judge Dredd. One of the judges is killed, but Fergie survived by hacking a food dispenser and hiding inside it. Judge Dredd quickly catches him and charges hims with tampering with city property. Since he just got out of prison, he is classified as a habitual criminal. Fergie pleads for leniency, because of the riot, and Judge Hersey thinks he has a point, but Judge Dredd still sentences him to a five-year prison term in Aspen Prison.

In the meantime, we're introduced to Rico, a high security prisoner in Aspen Prison. The warden comes into his special cell with a special package, which has his old Judge badge and a picture of man, Vargas Hammond (Mitchell Ryan). Vargas is a reporter who has been on a crusade to expose corruption in the Judges and higher up in the government. The package also turns out to contain a hidden gun, and with it Rico shoots the warden and escapes. Once back in Mega City, he is able to retrieve his old Lawmaker gun from a pawn shop, and an old war droid, before heading out and killing Vargas and somehow framing Judge Dredd with the crime. At first the head of the council, Chief Justice Fargo, is sure Dredd was framed, at least he is convinced after looking into Judge Dredd's eyes and asking him. However, during the trial it is revealed that not only is each gun linked to a judge's DNA, each bullet is encoded with the same information. And the bullets that killed Vargas were encoded with Judge Dredd's DNA.

Chief Justice Fargo is devastated with the news. Not only was he close to Judge Dredd, Judge Dredd was part of the Janus project. What is the Janus project? We don't know, not yet. But we know Judge Dredd and Rico were involved and the council buried it years ago. Now to keep it quiet again, Judge Griffin suggests to Chief Justice Fargo that he 'retires' by talking the long walk into the Cursed Earth. In exchange, the council sentences Judge Dredd to life in prison, in Aspen Prison.

While being flown to Aspen Prison, Judge Dredd is seated next to... Fergie. The flight is cut short when the plane is shot down.

At this point, we really hit spoiler territory, and I've already skipped over some major spoilers.

Judge Dredd is not a good movie. It is entertaining at times, but not always in intentionally. I did like some of the action scenes while Rob Schneider does have some funny lines, including when he mocked Judge Dredd's insistence that the law was infallible, even after the law failed him. Rob Schnieder's Stallone impersonation was a nice touch. The story felt borrowed from a lot of sources, including Demolition Man (the main good guy and bad guy are connected, events are put into place by a politician looking to remake society, the bad guy turns on the man who freed him, etc.). There's very little here that feels fresh or original, and while some of the action scenes are well-done, I never was engaged in the story, so I wasn't invested in the outcome. I liked some of the designs of the futuristic world and some of the acting was good (some of it was way over-the-top) but overall it is a miss.

The Extras

The only real extra on the DVD is a 20-minute making of featurette. It was originally shot in 1995 for the film's theatrical release, but this is the first time it has been released on the home market. The video and audio is solid, considering it is a catalog release. For the most part the detail level is high, even if the amount of grain is a tad high. The colors are good, but the palette tends to be dominated by browns and grays. There's no evidence of compression artifacts or digital manipulation. The audio is good with clear dialogue and a lot of activity in the surround sound speakers, including plenty of loud bass. Finally, it only cost $13, which is good for a catalog title that isn't technically shovelware.

The Verdict

Judge Dredd is an over-the-top sci-fi action film that doesn't deliver and isn't an inventive enough story to carry the film. Neither is the action top-of-the-line. I don't think it is as bad as its Tomatometer Score, but isn't worth seeing more than once. If you disagree, then the Blu-ray is worth the asking price.


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