Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Judge Dredd.”
The Movie: “Judge Dredd”
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Armand Assante, Rob Schneider
Director: Danny Cannon
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) In a dystopian future, Joseph Dredd, the most famous Judge (a police officer with instant field judiciary powers), is convicted for a crime he did not commit and must face his murderous counterpart.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 22 percent
Brown: With Halloween Month in our rearview mirror, I figured it’s as good a time as ever to watch a JOE-DOWN standard.
Terrible ‘90s action films!
Now, we’re not going back to Nic Cage for that. We just watched Cage last week in “Willy’s Wonderland.”
With Cage out of the equation, who better to do ‘90s action with than Sylvester Stallone?
So in this one, we watch as Sly is a hard-ass cop in a dystopian future framed for a crime he didn’t commit. And Rob Schneider is here as comic relief.
… Wait, didn’t we already do this Sly movie? Hell, even Froemming thought the same thing.
No, we’re not doing “Demolition Man.” We’re doing “Judge Dredd,” which means we’re going with another JOE-DOWN standard with a movie based on a comic book. Hell, that comic book happens to have an Anthrax song based on it.
But instead of a fun time like Marvel or a depressing (for a multitude of reasons) time like DC, we get *checks notes* right-wing porn… We’ll get into it.
Froemming, give us your initial thoughts while I have my Lawgiver shoot a double whammy.
Froemming: Only in the 90s could there have been a Stallone/Schneider teamup that dominated Hollywood in the weirdest star power duo juggernaut in history.
I saw this when it came to home video. And I remembered nothing about it besides Stallone yelling “I AM THE LAW.” Which is never a good sign going into a JOE-DOWN.
The second time around, I realized this was more of that classic right-wing porn that dominated Hollywood during this time. This and “Con-Air” are neck-in-neck with their insanely confusing politics. Only this one has the copy machine guy from SNL:
Why? That is a question that puzzled me the whole movie.
Brown, as I try to sneak out of this review via a garbage robot, why don’t you start this off?
Brown: So the movie opens with a narration from James Earl Jones, who never shows up in this movie ever again. No wonder a Judge Dredd character never showed up in the clouds when “Bleeding Gums” Murphy was saying goodbye to Lisa Simpson.
So to summarize the opening text: we’re in the year 2139; almost the entire planet has become a “Mad Max”-style barren wasteland, save for mega-cities; and instead of a functional judicial system, the world relies on
fascism a group of police called Judges who are all judge/jury/executioner.
This is why police reform is important, so cops can focus on ONE job instead of ALL the jobs. No good comes out of doing a little bit of everything but being a master of none.
Froemming: Why did you pick the Kyle Rittenhouse biopic?
Brown: Because 2021 is the beginning stages of a fascist hellscape and frankly, we need more topical humor on the JOE-DOWN.
So yeah, we see a world straight out of “Blade Runner” filled with Boba Fett ripoff suits. And, it turns out, the street judges sport outfits *checks notes* designed by Gianni Versace?!
Froemming: Look, when you are upholding the law, you need to be stylin’ and profilin’.
I am glad you brought up “Blade Runner.” That and “Total Recall” have their DNA all over this, and reminded me I could have been watching two better movies.
Brown: This and “Total Recall” were actually the two movies I debated for this week’s review. … I feel like I made the right choice because I didn’t want to think.
Froemming: You are the only person in history to allude to “Total Recall” being a thinking person’s movie.
Anyway, we see the streets are in chaos with a riot. I think this is also when we meet the most dumbfounding element of this movie: Herman “Fergie” Fergusson. Adding Schneider as comic relief to an action movie is like when Lars added his tin cans to the drums on “St. Anger.” It is just tonally confusing.
Brown: At one point in this review, I wrote that this movie wants to be “Star Wars” so badly, right down to Rob Schneider being this universe’s Jar-Jar Binks. And looking back, that may be the most accurate comparison I’ve made in the half-decade we’ve been doing this to ourselves.
Yeah, so Fergie has just been released from prison and apparently in this world, people are given designated housing. And because he’s a former felon, that means he gets to live in the slums and let the cycle of criminal behavior continue. I’m sure somewhere in this universe, there’s an old, white heir to their grandpa’s fortune that yells at people like Schneider to just “pull up their boot straps.”
Froemming: Would you want Rob Schneider living next door to you?
Brown: No. No I would not. I got nothing funny to say; I just don’t want that.
And in the apartment Fergie occupies, there’s a gang there firing live rounds and attracting the law.
Enter: The Law. And The Law’s *checks notes* giant codpiece?
And yeah, it’s a perfectly cromulent action sequence that includes all the worst Sly-isms. The double whammy was cool, at least.
Froemming: You keep using that word “cromulent,” and it’s awesome.
Brown: I’m glad that word embiggens your spirit, Froemming.
Froemming: Joseph Dredd (not affiliated with the JOE-DOWN) shows up to kick ass and judge people. He assists Judge Barbara Hershey in this scene, and this is the first JOE-DOWN crush I have admitted to: Diane Lane.
But unlike Brown, I will begin and end my fawning over Hershey now.
So, Judge Dredd bursts into the apartment and kicks everyone’s asses and kills some too, because that is the law. And we know, if you just follow the law nothing bad will ever happen.
And Fergie tries to escape this shootout via a garbage robot, and this scene alone sums up the life of Rob Schneider: A coward hiding in trash.
He is judged and sentenced to five years in prison for not jumping out a window to save his life. The logic of the laws in this movie is more baffling than the anti-veteran rednecks in “Con-Air.”
Brown: Afterwards, Hershey gets on Dredd about how strict he is about the law, seeing that Fergie was just trying to save his bacon. But Dredd is basically a law book with bulging biceps. At one point, he says the line “Emotions, there should be a law against ‘em.”
I laughed so goddamn hard at this, knowing that Judge Dredd is probably a descendant of Dennis Reynolds.
Back at the police academy, Chief Justice Fargo (played by Max von Sydow) gives Dredd the typical “you were my best student” speech and starts having Dredd train recruits.
Froemming: We should also mention von Sydow is getting close to Cage and Travolta levels of appearances in our reviews. And I am really OK with that.
Brown: Meanwhile, we get taken to the Aspen penal colony where the warden goes into maximum security and meets his end courtesy of the best thing in this movie: Rico, played by a no-(REDACTED)-given Armand Assante.
Froemming: You messaged me about him hamming it up in this, and I agree. And, honestly, that is the best part of the whole movie. Do you think this Rico could have gone pro as well?
Brown: The dude was John Gotti. He can do whatever the (REDACTED) he wants.
For example, Rico escapes prison with relative ease since the prison guard robots shoot the warden because they can’t recognize his voice after Rico shoots him in the throat.
… But how exactly does that prevent the robots from trying to kill the escaping convict exactly?
Froemming: Because he is protected by plot armor? Also, how does nobody know this criminal escaped throughout the movie? You think the high council or whatever they were called would have some sort of idea about the guy they created when they decided to play God escaped.
Brown: That’s just it; Rico is a secret they were trying to bury, so I think they wanted to keep as few of eyes as possible on it as not to arouse attention to the fact they were playing God.
Froemming: Why didn’t they just kill him to bury the secret forever? This made zero sense to me.
Brown: Do I get to do this? Do I really get to steal your bit?!
We also find out that Rico was a former Judge when he shows up to a pawn shop (I assume) to grab his old gear. And, the Lawgiver, the standard weapon of the Judge, recognizes his DNA and doesn’t blow Rico’s hand off when he picks the gun up.
Froemming: He also awakens some robot that looks suspiciously like the Rockbiter.
Brown: Throughout the start of this movie, we have a TV reporter claiming to have a story about the Judges and the Council Judges that’ll basically shake society. But before he can go on air, a Judge with a Dredd badge comes in and kills the reporter and his wife.
… Not a great look in 2021 when journalists get targeted by cops at protest and half of the political spectrum is adversarial to journalists. Somewhere, someone is cheering this action, and I want to punch them in the throat.
Yes, I get worked up about this stuff, considering my career choice and all.
Froemming: Sounds like something an #EnemyOfThePeople would say…
I feel gross for even joking about that.
And this guy is a TV reporter, so my sympathies are already low for him, so (REDACTED) you movie for making me defend the broadcast folk, who are the Shelbyville to print’s Springfield.
After a routine blowing up of a drunk’s car for too many violations, Judge Joseph Dredd is arrested by a crew of other Judges for murder.
Brown: … Excessive force doesn’t exist in this universe, does it. I’m all for throwing the book at someone with multiple DUIs, but blowing up a car seems… a bit much?
So Dredd is arrested for murder but *checks notes* gets a trial instead of being judged on the street.
Where’s the (REDACTED) consistency in this system of law?
Froemming: I am honestly surprised he did not get to…
Dredd picks Hershey as his lawyer, because she is smart and can play on sympathies and whatnot. I love Hershey in this.
And she does pretty well at first, using some nerd from Dredd’s class to throw out the video of him shooting the reporter because it is too grainy. Shocked that chucklehead Chauvin didn’t try this nonsense at his trial.
But the prosecution as an ace up their sleeve: The guns they use upload DNA of the user whenever a round is fired, which seems pretty stupid and a lot of work given how many rounds are fired in this movie. And we also see how DNA is extracted later in this, by drawing blood.
The science in this movie is as baffling as the laws.
Brown: This is the decisive evidence and Dredd is found guilty.
He… handles it well?
Seriously, that line read by Sly is one of the most insanely delightful things I’ve seen in a while.
The punishment is death… until Chief Justice Fargo announces that he’ll be resigning. And per the rules of this
kangaroo court council, the wishes of a retiring council member will be followed by the group. So, Dredd is given life in the Aspen penal colony. And Fargo gets to take the Long Walk, where a retiring Judge gets to *checks notes* walk the wasteland alone to try and maintain the law as they see fit in the hellish wasteland.
… That’s a pretty terrible retirement package.
Froemming: They basically become Jules from “Pulp Fiction.”
This is when the movie goes from an OK Stallone action movie into a bizarre buddy-cop comedy. The tonal shift really killed the movie, and I am confused why this happened. It would be like plopping Carrot Top in the middle of “The Dark Knight.”
So on the prison plane taking these convicts…WAIT! This is “Con-Air.” This is (REDACTED) “Con-Air!”
Granted “Con-Air” came out two years later. Still, I am angry now.
Anywho, on the plane Fergie realizes he is sitting next to the guy who put him in prison for five years and starts cracking wise and getting the other prisoners worked up. Why would they put Dredd on the same flight of people he put away? No idea, seems like a bad call to me.
On top of that, we have a family of cannibals living in the wasteland who decide to shoot down a prison plane for food, and they add comic relief to these guys too. Did they change directors in the middle of making this?
Brown: I can deal with a good chunk of this movie’s buffoonery so long as Armand Assante is screaming about being the new beginning.
So to wrap it up quickly, Dredd and Fergie are captured by the descendants of Leatherface’s family, including what I can only describe as evil Man-Borg. The two are saved by Chief Justice Fargo, who is doing his best Obi-Wan impression before he dies by impalement, much like Obi-Wan.
And the whole time, Schneider is yelling for help and describing whatever is happening on screen. Fergie may as well be named Willie and we may as well be watching “Temple of Doom” because that’s who Schneider is channeling in this role.
As Fargo lay dying, he reveals the truth about Dredd’s life: He’s a clone made from something called the Janus Project that took the desirable traits from the Council to become the perfect Judge. And in that same project, one of the other clones turns out was Rico, who Dredd previously judged, putting our antagonist in Aspen for years.
That’s the (REDACTED) plot of “Metal Gear Solid!” Dredd/Solid Snake becomes the super soldier while Rico/Liquid Snake gets the recessive genes that turn them evil.
I get it; It’s yin-and-yang. Only done through the lens of a shitty ‘90s action movie.
Fargo also makes a comment about a giant Lady Justice statue in the cave that Dredd knows nothing about. Dredd, my dude: Did you never listen to “… And Justice For All?”
Froemming: You should have at least shared the And Justice for Jason…
Yeah. I like bass in my music.
Now, we have the council deciding to revive the Janus files because of the trickery of Griffin. He is basically the guy who tried to threaten Bane:
The files are unlocked, but then all the judges are killed. Because nothing makes sense and this weirdo thinks he will rule the world.
The plan now is to create an army of clones, which I think George Lucas stole from this for his shitty “Star Wars” prequels. And our dynamic duo of Dredd and *checks notes* Schneider need to save the day and sneak back into the city.
Brown: They sneak back into Mega-City by running through an exhaust pipe before it bursts into flames that shoot out every 30 seconds.
Not only do the flames shoot out more like every 15 seconds, Dredd and Fergie get through this obstacle with comical ease. Even when Fergie gets his foot trapped in the damn floor.
Then, when Dredd subdues a street Judge to steal his uniform (non-Dredd Judges are Stormtrooper levels of incompotent), Fergie makes a gay joke because this movie is ‘90s as (REDACTED). For better or worse. Usually worse.
Also, there’s this weird Stockholm Syndrome thing happening where Rico berates, or seduces… or something to this woman, Dr. Hayden, who works in the lab where the Janus Project is taking place.
They… don’t quite explain what happens here. At first, she’s in conflict with Rico. Then by the time Rico’s plan is unfurled, she has *checks notes* a bunch of cleavage and a horned-up smile when she looks at Rico?
Is that how love works, Froemming?
Froemming: Pretty much. Either way, it is less confusing than what happened for her in the Northwest in the early 90s.
Brown: Anyways, there’s a speeder bike chase through Mega-City because, again, this movie really wants to be “Star Wars.” Dredd and Fergie survive, then head to Hershey’s apartment, where she nearly shoots them. See, Mega-City is in total chaos because Rico has orchestrated a mass slaughter of all the street Judges. So, naturally, Hershey thinks she’s next.
Dredd and Hershey use their brains to figure out where Rico and co. could be. Fergie has no brain, so he’s no help. The two deduce that the lab would need a shitload of power, so they need to go where there’s been power surges as of late.
That place: The Statue of Liberty. Because of (REDACTED) course an evil lair is in the (REDACTED) Statue of Liberty.
This movie is so goddamn stupid.
Froemming: I prefer seeing the Ghostbusters in Lady Liberty.
Well, we come to the end level of this video game, where Rico and Dredd face off. Brother vs brother. And, because of hubris, Rico starts the cloning process early, and we see these horrific monsters that look like, you guessed it, Frank Stallone.
Brown: I was laughing so damn hard at these clones.
First, they have Ken doll anatomy, so clearly Dredd and his codpiece are compensating.
Second, they look freakishly like the Hank and Dean clones from “The Venture Bros.” And it’s criminal that “The Venture Bros.” was canceled.
Froemming: Oh, Fergie gets shot at one point, but this movie keeps him alive to torture us with his one-liners.
The lab starts blowing up for some reason and we get the final fight between the two brothers. And like every bad guy in an 80s action movie, Rico dies via falling from a building. It is a trope I assumed would have ended by 1995, but whatever. That is not the worst of this ending.
No, that comes at the very end, where Dredd is proven innocent and instead of joining the high council to rethink these weird ass laws that caused so much trouble and make things better, he decides to remain a street judge and not learn one (REDACTED) lesson on how there are situations that put innocent people away. Like literally what just happened to him. The ending literally undoes all the character development (the very little there is) that we just sat through. He just goes back to his old job and codpiece and everything goes back to square one.
(REDACTED) you, movie.
After Dredd and Hershey kiss (because of course they fall in love), Hershey makes a comment about how it must feel good for Dredd to be human. They have a laugh. Then, he goes back to being an emotionless cyborg that has free reign to kill and judge people. Nothing is learned. Nothing is gained. Only Hershey gets the illusion that sex is going to eventually happen.
Did you not pay attention to those clones, Hershey? You’re going to be deeply disappointed. That’s probably why she later has a steamy affair with a stranger in “Unfaithful.”
I’m absolutely not looking up clips from “Unfaithful” while doing this review on a work computer.
Froemming, let’s get to recommendations before we start yelling “LAW” at each other.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: No. “Demolition Man” was better than this. The only redeeming quality of this movie is Armand Assante.
Froemming: Absolutely not.
Here is what’s coming up for the next JOE-DOWN: