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.
The exposition states that the Earth has become a wasteland and the people live in Mega-Cities. Crime is rampant, so the people create a police force known as Judges who can try, convict, and execute at their whim.
Then the movie opens to Rob Schneider, which is never a good sign. A recently released convict out on parole, Schneider gapes at the city and the scenes before him, as if he didn’t live in this city before serving his two year sentence. He must be a pretty stupid guy too, because he believes a rooftop paradise is his new court appointed living space. He arrives at his actual apartment to discover it is occupied by a gang of squatters. Then a street war breaks out and the entire block is engaged in a firefight.
Two Judges arrive, Hersey (Diane Lane) and some rookie who won’t live long enough to make his name relevant. They immediately are pinned down and call for backup. Backup arrives, in the form of one Judge (Sylvester Stallone) Dredd . He casually walks around this narrow street while bullets are flying and tells the two other Judges there is nothing to fear because they are well outside the effective range of the gangs’ weapons. That is all good and well, except all those gangs are firing from elevated positions down onto the narrow street. Effective range is less important when you are firing with the pull of gravity.
Anyways, Dredd orders everyone to lay down their weapons, which they don’t, and then he goes on a killing spree in the name of justice. The rookie follows, and wants to be cool like Dredd, so he breaks down a door and is immediately shot and killed. Then Dredd kills them all.
Meanwhile Schneider’s character has hidden himself in a mobile vending machine to escape all the murder. Dredd finds him and sentences him to 5 years in prison. At this point Dredd has already said “I knew you’d say that” at least twice, and Hersey mocks him for it. This means the filmmakers know this is a stupid line, and Hersey even comments on it, but Dredd continues to do it throughout the film.
The movie said the Earth was a barren desert wasteland, and yet now we immediately jump to a penal colony that has snow. So water and different climates seems to exist on the “Cursed Earth.” Like all wardens in all movies, the warden of this penal colony makes personal visits to the most dangerous criminals under his charge. He visits a man named Rico, delivers him a zip gun (presumably unaware) and promptly gets chopped in the throat by Rico. Then the warden orders the voice controlled defense turrets to fire, and they don’t recognize his voice and kill him instead. Despite being set in the 2080s, pretty much all of the technology in this movie is terrible, even by 1995 standards. Rico manages to escape, no explanation give why the turrets didn’t shoot him, either immediately, or as soon as he left his blue light area.
Pretty much every other scene has a reporter saying how corrupt the Judges are and that Dredd is at the root of the problems. Dredd is then asked to teach a few days a week at the academy on ethics. We also learn that Hersey has only 1 year on the job as a Judge, but apparently isn’t still considered a rookie.
Rico comes to Mega-City gets, his old Judge gear, and then kills the pawnshop owner who was holding it for him. There is also a large robot. Rico literally twists two wires together and the robot is made fully operational again and becomes the loyal servant of Rico.
At the academy, Dredd demonstrates that the shoulder pads all the Judges wear are bullet proof. Too bad the whole rest of the uniform isn’t also bullet proof, or that rookie from the other day would still be alive. Maybe in this future research shows that 99% of gunshots are fired at football pads. I don’t know.
Remember that reporter? He is at his home with his wife, bragging about how much he bad talks the Judges, when a Judge bursts in and shoots him dead. The Judge has a badge which reads “Dredd” on it. And the reporter says “Dredd no!” before dying. All captured on camera. Dredd is the primary suspect, even though Rico is the obvious perpetrator.
Hersey is conducting a traffic stop and Dredd shows up and blows the guy’s car up. Dredd drops in on Hersey so much that I’m starting to think he is stalking her. Anyways, a bunch of troops in black show up and take Dredd into custody. Who are these men in black? I thought all the police were Judges, but there is apparently some military group also going around acting as police.
Dredd asks that Hersey be his defense attorney, he claims it is because she knows her ethics front-ways and side-ways, but the truth is a stalker can never stand to be too far from their victim. During the trial we see what might be the worst surveillance video ever recorded. For all we know this is footage of a UFO sighting. Fortunately Hersey is a good enough lawyer that she gets the video thrown out. But then a new secret evidence is revealed. All Judge weapons when fired imprint a DNA code on the bullets. Not one of the Judges in the courtroom (other than the old men overseers) knew this. But now they just revealed it to like 30 people, so probably the word will get out. If you commit a murder as a Judge, use a weapon other than your own.
Dredd is going to be sentenced to murder, but to cover up something relating to Dredd and Rico, the oldest of the old men is convinced by the second oldest man (Jürgen Prochnow) to go into exile as a last request and wants Dredd to be imprisoned for life instead of executed. I forgot to mention that the rich retirement offered by the Judge program is a life of exile outside the city walls in the desert. People must be chomping at the bit to get into that academy.
While Dredd is being transferred to the penal colony, Rico meets up with old Judge number #2. This is all an elaborate plot on his part to seize power, or something. Since this character is played by Jürgen Prochnow, the only thing I know for certain is if there is an opportunity to relive that scene in Das Boot, we are going to relive it, no matter how poorly it fits into the current story. Anyways, he wants Rico and his side-kick robot to go on a rampage of wanton destruction.
At this point I had forgotten about Schneider being in this movie, but don’t underestimate this movie’s ability to kick you between the legs when you let your guard down. Schneider and Dredd are on the same transport. I guess a 5 year sentence and lifetime sentence go to the same bleak frozen penal colony. Schneider immediately identifies Dredd as Dredd, and now some people on the transport want to kill him. Just as this is about to happen, some weird gang of freaks outside shoot the plane down.
Jürgen Prochnow sends his black storm troopers to check the wreckage, and Dredd and Schneider are gone, everyone else seems to be dead. Except the pilot. Jürgen orders there to be no survivors.
Schneider and Dredd wake up to discover they are being held captive by some hill-billy mutant family of scavengers and cannibals. Of course Dredd is able to escape and kill them, but not before the storm troopers arrive. Dredd gets a gun and kills the storm troopers too. So now he really is a murderer I think, unless those things are robots. When they die they kind of make robotish sounds. So I don’t know. Scratch that, there are splatters of blood behind where he shot the storm troopers. Like all good “cop wrongly accused” movies, it doesn’t matter how many crimes you have to commit or how many people you have to kill to clear your good name. Old Judge shows up just at the end to kill one more dude, and then is promptly stabbed by a cyborg. Dredd fights and kills the cyborg, but not before saying “I knew you’d say that.” That line gets better every time I hear it.
Meanwhile Hersey is snooping around, trying to solve the mystery of Dredd’s past. Just in time for old Judge to reveal they did a eugenics program to try and create perfect Judges, and Dredd and Rico were the two results. Rico was just a bad seed, and went crazy, and Dredd judged him. I guess the old man thought Rico was dead, but Jürgen hid him away for later use. The old man dies.
Jürgen and Rico go to the facility where he was born. It is pretty clear that Rico is going to double cross them and kill them (like all good eugenics programs, this one produces a power hungry psycho), but they are stupid. Rico then goes on a crime spree, probably to fill minutes, and so we can see just how worthless that Judge armor is. Bombs go off and the war robot somehow kills people despite being the second slowest moving robot ever (the first being C3PO). Dredd and Schneider are trying to bust into the city. Hersey is nearly killed. During the council of Judges, Jürgen convinces them they need to restart the eugenics program because of the loses of Judges. And they unlock it, and he has Rico come in and kill all the rest of the counsel.
Dredd busts in seconds later and Jürgen sends the storm troopers against them. They escape of a flying motorcycle. And then there is a long pointless flying motorcycle chase scene. By my count Dredd has now caused the death of at least a dozen storm troopers. Then Dredd shows up at Hersey’s house. he convinces her he is on the side of the law (as long as you don’t wear black). Then they figure out where the lab is (under the moved Statue of Liberty).
Meanwhile, back at the lab, Rico replaces the Dredd sample with his own. Incredibly Rico double crosses Jürgen and has his stupidily slow robot rip his arms off. Dredd, Hersey, and Schneider are snooping around and then the robot grabs Hersey and Rico takes them all captive. Schneider does the first useful thing he has done this whole movie and gets shot. Hersey and Schneider are left in the hall with the robot, and Rico and the scientist lady brag about their new clones. Rico cries about being a clone and Dredd’s betrayal by judging him.
Rico calls in the robot, and then Schneider disables it. Now we get to watch Hersey and the lady scientist have a good old fashioned cat fight. Dredd and Rico also fail to kill each other. Not before Rico hatches his clone army 2 hours early, but wait, that never seems to actually happen and is of no relevance. Rico and Dredd settle their differences with fists at the top of the Statue of Liberty. Dredd throws Rico to his death, and Hersey finally kills that scientist woman who probably had no combat training in her life.
Dredd and Hersey exit the building, and all the Judges have assembled and ask him to be chief judge, but he turns them down. Hersey kisses him on the lips as he immediately goes on patrol. Like 2 seconds after turning down the position. Where did they find his badge and armor for him to wear? Who knows or cares. Somehow Rob Schneider survives, worst ending ever.