'Dredd' a movie with lots of action, but very few words

By Veronica Hirsch

Arizona Summer Wildcat

My grandfather would have called it a "shoot-em-up." Hollywood calls it an "action adventure." I call "Judge Dredd" just another lazy-man's comic book.

Poor Stallone. The market niche for laconic tough-guys just isn't what it used to be. But what can you do when your main talents ─ frowning, firing big, heavy guns with one hand, and frowning ─ are no longer what the public wants?

Schwarzen-egger decided to lighten up. No longer the evil android, he's been a genetically engineered superhuman (Twins), an elementary school teacher (Kindergarten Cop), and the ultimate in non-macho macho heroes ─ the world's first pregnant man (Junior).

Stallone, however, is, if anything, getting heavier. After several dismal tries at comedy, ("Oscar" and "Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot!" among others) it appears that Stallone has finally decided, at least temporarily, to play to his main strength ─ looking mad.

"Judge Dredd" is the story of a crime-filled future where most of humanity is trapped behind the walls of a few "Mega-Cities." When crime got too bad, the overburdened legal system was combined with the police force to make an efficient system of "instant justice" carried out by 'the Judges.'

Basically, like a wayward sheriff in the Old West, the Judges find, try and sentence every criminal on the spot, usually by either blowing them, or their possessions, up. Judge Joseph Dredd (Stallone) is the meanest of the mean, a legend of toughness. His life as "The Law" is lonely and violent, but overall he's pretty content ... until somebody frames him for murder, kills the only man that he ever admired, and ... you can probably figure out the rest.

Stallone is in his true element playing a man who says, "Emotions ─ there ought to be a law against them." True to form, Stallone acts as if there already is a law against them, displaying throughout the movie his impressive mastery of the frown.

Armand Assante is the evil Judge-gone-bad Rico, and as is typical in movies with dark, pensive, heroes ("Robin Hood," "Batman") the bad guys are always more interesting than the good guys.

Joan Chen "stars" as assistant villain, but the only thing I remember her saying is "Bitch!" during the catfight with Diane Lane (Judge Hershey).

Rob Schneider ('The Richmeister' from "Saturday Night Live") provides comic relief as a computer hacker who winds up "going along with the ride" with Judge Dredd. His banter, though funny, is almost too funny, and doesn't seem to flow with the rest of the dialog. (He makes a joke about delivering pizza ─they still have pizza in the year 2139?)

Directed by English director Danny Cannon ("The Young Americans") and written by William Wisher ("Terminator 2: Judgement Day) the film is fun to look at, (now that computers have replaced the old "stand in front of the blue screen" system of special effects) and the action is more or less non-stop. But of course, it's not really exciting, because you never doubt for a moment that Dredd will lose.

"Judge Dredd" is based on a comic-book, and for better or for worse, it retains the look and feel of a comic-book. In other words, it looks good, but it doesn't say much.

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