Intrada corner

Soundtrack review: Judge Dredd (Alan Silvestri – 1995, 2015)

“Judge Dredd” is a 1995 bombastic Sci-fi movie starring Sylvester Stallone as the title comic book character, a Dirty Harry type guy who is judge, jury and executioner in a dystopian future. Since I am such a big Sly fan I have a recollection of watching the movie and enjoying it back in the day. I know it might not seem as good today but for a 16 year old it was so much fun. After 20 years, Alan Silvestri’s score finally sees the light of day courtesy of Intrada and I know quite a few people who counted this among their holy grails. Being a fan of Alan Silvestri and having just gotten to know a lot of his work when I did “Alan SIlvestri month” in December I am also very excited to hear this massive 140 minutes long release, more than double the original version.

The main title is even more powerful than the character itself. It sounds as if it was taken from the scores for Conan. The brass, the anvils, the constant pounding and the relentless pace make an unforgettable statement. SIlvestri can deliver strength like no other when he’s on his best game and both “Main title” and “Block war”, the opening two cues, stump closer to us to the sound of a thousand metal boots. I can remember that dystopian and unforgiving world when I hear the almost anthem like sound that opens “Judge Dredd”. I imagine an army of notes and instruments marching to bring order and justice in a broken world. I’ve always enjoyed Silvestri’s action music and I am happy to already fin in Dredd the force I adored in “Van Helsing” or “The mummy returns”.

The main theme is introduced in a tenderer rendition at the beginning of “I’ve heard it all” and even if a flute version in “The law”. I guess Silvestri wanted to show us that the main character really loves the law as sees it as a friend. The complex and epic world of “Dredd” is laid before us brick by brick, plate by place, pillar by pillar by one of the greatest composers of our time. I love a score that welcomes me so warmly into its layer. You don’t need time to adjust to this sound and you don’t have to wait for anything. That main theme is your guide and it won’t take more than 15 minutes for you to get adjusted to this score and to feel at home in it. The percussion and the brass collide like titans on a remote island and we are all invited to enjoy their meeting.

The music makes me care for the main character. Alan Silvestri manipulates my feelings by going all dramatic when Dredd gets arrested and wrongfully accused (“I broke the law?? I AM the law!!”). The thematic complexity of “Judge Dredd” makes this score a treasure for any film music fan. You can’t put just one label on it and this is an even more impressive achievement when you realize that all these different feelings are laid on the same dark and heavy canvas which musically paints us the world in which the story takes place.

What can you tell about a larger than life cue like “Say it isn’t so” which goes from epic to intimate and back in only 150 seconds. Dredd’s downward spiral is echoed musically with “Judgment day” which breaks our hearts and throws them into a bottomless pit. I can feel the weight of the decision and the feeling of no way out and I must admit I care more for the character and his story through the music than I ever did watching the movie. “Judgment day” has to be one of the most epic and spectacular cues Alan Silvestri has ever written and that’s saying a lot.

In the dark and swampy “Angel family values” I recognize the uncomfortable and scary atmosphere of his score for “Judgment night”. This cue could also work on a horror score and you will hear all sorts of twisted and abused instruments. I feel the music crawling on my skin. I love the power of “We created you” which seems to be an ancestor of Brian Tyler’s current explosive compositions.

For me, “Judge Dredd” is Alan Silvestri’s “Conan the barbarian” or “Ben Hur”; his magnum opus, his biggest and boldest creation. Dredd lives in a distant future but there’s something about his themes that suggest to me a roman gladiator or a warrior from ancient times. Yes I might be saying this in the heat of the moment but man oh man this score is exciting! I know that David Arnold was initially attached to write it and I imagine he would have delivered something just as great. The decision to bring in Silvestri though was genius. What a delightful treasure for all film music lovers and what a gift from Intrada. This score couldn’t and shouldn’t have stayed hidden. I will surely rewatch the movie now and pay more attention to the music.

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 101 / 138

Album excellence: 73%

Highlights:

Main Title – Revised

Block War – Revised Aspen – Revised

The Law

Dredd’s Arrest

Say It Ain’t So

Judgement Day+

Angel Family Values

We Created You

New Order Montage

Janus!

Council Chaos – Revised

Griffin Gets It

Send In The Clones

Judge Dredd – Trailer (Jerry Goldsmith)

ORIGINAL & ALTERNATE TAKES: Main Title+*

Block War+

I’ve Heard It All+

Aspen – Alternate+

Council Chaos+*

Choose+

Choose – Alternate+

Choose – Revised+

New World – Alternate+ ORIGINAL 1995 AOUNDTRACK ASSEMBLIES: Judgement Day+

Block War+

New World+

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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