Did all the movie critics in 1995 get some sort of food poisoning at a Judge Dredd press screening and then instead of complaining to the publicist about their sour-tasting meal, chose to verbally vomit their angst out instead into a terrible review of this wonderful movie? Judge Dredd has a staggering 0% rating on the Top Critics section of Rotten Tomatoes, meaning that the not even one of the best-of-the-best critics gave it a good or decent review. By an aggregation standpoint, that makes Judge Dredd just as awful as Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser. It’s worse than Gigli.
This is honestly so baffling to me because I LOVED Judge Dredd. I mean loved it, it was so so much fun. Yes, it’s dumb and cheesy and it thinks its smart but totally isn’t. But there’s just a palpable sense of joy we get every time Sylvester Stallone or Diane Lane cocks their weapons, preparing to fire a 200-millimeter round of B-movie delight straight into our hearts.
Stallone plays Judge Dredd, a futuristic cop who also has the ability to try and convict people of their crimes on the spot. Some would say this is a gross abuse of police and governmental authority, to which Dredd would reply “I knew you were going to say that!” But we’re ok in Dredd’s hands though: his sense of morality and ethics are as hard lined as his jaw and his patience for criminals is as limited as his vocabulary.
Dredd gets framed for a crime, and get this, he’s the one who ends up getting dreadfully judged! He pals around with Rob Schneider for a bit, who’s the comedic heart of the film, and Diane Lane plays another Judge who tries to uncover the truth behind Dredd’s cover-up. There’s also Armand Asssante who plays the maniacal bad guy that questions the rule of law and has a grudge against the judges. And then there’s some giant robots and cyborgs who smash stuff in-between. There’s also a police recruit who’s really good at Photoshop that plays a major role in things, a positive sign for any Graphic Designers who were worried about their dystopian future job prospects.
It’s a really, really simple and easy story. The film meets the basic requirements of being considered sci-fi but doesn’t go anything beyond that. It doesn’t want to earn an A+, it just wants to do the minimal work needed for a D-. It’s a carefully-distilled blend of action and sci-fi movie archetypes, with no true originality or interesting characters or intriguing themes about space or futurism or humanity in dystopia or anything like that. It’s as intellectually stimulating as a conversation with a Judge Dredd action figure.
But it’s so, so fun. The editing in this movie is spectacular with no time needlessly wasted. The dialogue is atrocious but inspired. The action scenes are thrilling and the set design (at least the sets that weren’t CGI or made from special effects) are just soothing to look at. Watching this movie gives you the same sense of calm and serenity as being in a Target store on an early Sunday morning with no other shoppers around. You feel at peace in Judge Dredd’s hands, grateful for the joy it brings you for the next 90 minutes. It isn’t good for the mind, but it is great for the soul. Don’t be afraid to like it, as only the 90s movie-going gods can truly judge you.