The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Saturday, July 1, 1995                 TAG: 9506300060
TYPE: Movie Review 
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   63 lines


HERE COMES the Judge.

If you're concerned with morals, civilization and, more specifically, the Constitution, you might have trouble with Judge Dredd's philosophy. One doubts, though, that many movie fans are analyzing the social misapprehensions behind ``Judge Dredd.'' They want a thrill ride - and they'll get it from this flick.

Based on the comic book series that is all the rage in Great Britain, ``Judge Dredd'' is set in a future in which overpopulation has reached the point that folks live in skyscrapers piled atop each other.

The situation is so chaotic that ``judges'' are the only thing standing between social order and total barbarity. The judges are empowered to arrest, convict, sentence and punish offenders. The most dreaded and strait-laced of them all is Judge Dredd, and it seems perfect casting that Sylvester Stallone has the role.

Judge Dredd has zero tolerance for evil-doers. He's to the year 2139 what Charles Bronson was to another generation.

``Judge Dredd'' is the noisiest movie of the year - and that's saying a lot. At the screening I intended, the soundtrack was loud enough to shake the popcorn out of the box. You will not nap.

Danny Cannon, the 27-year-old director, has managed to keep the entire film on a dead-pan, oh-so-serious, level and yet we somehow get the idea that he knows it's all ridiculous. (For the sake of his sanity, at least we hope he knows). In any case, it's the perfect tack for this type of film.

When Stallone enters and booms, ``I am the law!'' criminals shudder, but the audience is more likely to chuckle. Cannon almost crosses the line, though, when someone yells ``Send in the clones!''

Max von Sydow (the Ingmar Bergman actor who now seems interested mainly in making money) is Judge Dredd's concerned mentor, a good man who is powerless to help him. The plot, what little there is, concerns Judge Dredd's being framed for murder, which would take him out of the action and let the bad guys take over. Jurgen Prochnow (from ``Das Boot'') is the politician who let his ambition get away with him. He plots constantly.

Diane Lane, the beauty who never seems quite able to become the movie star she was intended to be, plays Judge Hershey, who is intent on saving Dredd.

The noisiest villain is Armand Assante, a cloned thing who snarls a lot and provides Sly with the mandatory grand finale fight.

The producers wanted a PG-13 rating. They got an R. They were perhaps treated a little harshly. There is violence here, but it is cartoonish and, like the movie as a whole, is not to be taken seriously.

The movie borrows liberally from both ``Blade Runner'' and ``Star Wars.'' If you had to borrow, these are good films to plunder. The look is that of ``Blade Runner,'' a future world gone awry. There are phony-looking backdrops at times but, for the most part, the $85 million budget shows. The dash through a tunnel is stolen directly from ``Star Wars.''

In fact, ``Judge Dredd'' is as fast as pacing will allow. At merely 90 minutes, it sends you from the theater in need of a rest. For its intended action fans, it's exactly on target.