JUDGE DREDD – The Blu Review
By Joe Vanourney
“I didn’t break da law! I am da law!”
Sylvester Stallone stars as “Judge Dredd,” in 1995’s futuristic action adventure based on a popular comic book character, now available on Blu-ray for the first time, featuring an all new digital restoration with enhanced picture and sound. The Blu-ray is timed to capitalize on this week’s theatrical release of Lionsgate’s “Dredd 3D” starring Karl Urban in a new take on the character.
In a future where crime has taken over the cities, all-powerful “judges” act with supreme authority of both the police force and legal system, acting as judge, jury, and sometimes executioner, Judge Dredd is the most feared law enforcer of them all. A corrupt former judge devises a sinister plot to bring him down, framing him for murder, and Dredd stops at nothing to even the scales of justice.
The film also stars Diane Lane as one of Dredd’s fellow street judges, Armand Assante as a former judge/friend of Dredd who escapes from prison to seek revenge, Max Von Sydow and Jurgen Prochnow as supreme judges, and Rob Schneider as a prisoner that Dredd must partner with.
When then film was released back in 1995, it was panned pretty heavily, a bit unfairly I think. Yes, it is campy at times. Yes, a few of the visual effects seemed rushed. But the film was light, fun entertainment and worked for me. A climatic shouting match near the film’s end where Stallone and Assante are screaming at full volume trying to see who can “outslur” each other made me laugh in the theater back then and it made me laugh again watching it 17 years later, but that is part of the film’s charm. Part of the criticism may be that the film deviated in tone from the comic source material. That is a fair criticism, but in this case I think it more or less worked, and time hasn’t altered my view. The new “Dredd 3D” is supposed to be darker in tone, and we will see how that plays for audiences when it comes out.
The video quality of this new release from Disney is superb, a first-rate presentation of a catalog title. I compared this video transfer to both the 1996 laserdisc transfer, which was shockingly grainy in comparison, and the original DVD release. The Blu-ray blows it away. The clarity of some of the visual images is absolutely stunning, and the colors are vibrant.
The audio quality is also top-notch, with a new 5.1 DTS-HD MA track. The music score from Alan Silvestri was always good—it’s loud, it’s aggressive, and it compliments the loud over-the-top gunfire sound effects. If you like to play explosions and gunfire and crashes at a raised volume on your sound system, this is one you will like.
What the new Blu-Ray lacks is a nice set of bonus features. There are only two: a theatrical trailer and a 20-minute making of featurette made in 1995 titled “Stallone’s Law: The Making of Judge Dredd,” a poorly-edited and produced puff piece produced to probably air as filler on whatever cable tv network was set to air Judge Dredd in the 90s.
I would have liked to have seen some kind of new feature included, at least an audio commentary track with director Danny Cannon and/or Stallone. The film has a history of production delays and feuds between the two as to how Dredd should be portrayed—Stallone wanted his face to be shown, Cannon did not. The original ending of the film (which I saw at a test screening at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles months before the film came out) had a main character dying who is now alive in the released version. I would like to hear a candid recap of the experience by the two. Maybe some day.
So is it worth the upgrade? If you don’t currently own it or are a huge fan looking to get the best video and quality presentation—absolutely. If you are looking for insightful bonus features—not so much.
“Judge Dredd” is available on Blu-Ray now from Walt Disney Home Entertainment.
FILM QUALITY: 3.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
VIDEO QUALITY: 4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
AUDIO QUALITY: 4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
BONUS FEATURES: 1 OUT OF 5 STARS