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Stallone on a familiar rocky road

Hot on the treadmarks of Tank Girl comes Judge Dredd, another comic-book movie set in a not-so-surprising future where the world is either deserted or decayed, gunplay has replaced handshakes, and costumers work overtime to make fashion look stranger than Parisian pret-a-porter shows.

Judge Dredd has Sylvester Stallone mumbling his way through another action hero role that should give the Golden Raspberry Awards something to ponder for next year's booby prizes. Stallone plays Dredd, who is the most cold-blooded of all law enforcers in Mega City, executioner, too, as we see in a ballistic opening sequence.

Stallone plays Dredd with distracting blue-tinted contact lenses and an immobile face, except for that scowl that won't stop. He also gets the goofiest uniform, looking like a pumped-up doorman with a pair of giant Twist-a-Flex watchbands on his shoulders. Stallone's performance is reminscent of his work in Demolition Man, with a self-spoofing seriousness that becomes a tired joke.

Much time and money (reportedly $100-million) have been spent to make Judge Dredd the ultimate sci-fi shoot-'em-up, and the fantasy holds up for the first 45 minutes or so. Visions of taxis whizzing through the skyline of Mega City, voice-activated weapons and robotic villains are impressive, but the future shouldn't spark a sense of deja vu.

Judge Dredd does, proving again that by the 22nd century, nobody has developed a better urban development plan since Blade Runner. And two extra centuries of crime has come up with a better scheme than societal dominance and the oldest cliches in the (comic) book _ a frame-up and an evil twin.

Saturday Night Live refugee Rob Schneider steals a few laughs as Dredd's accomplice, but in these macho-'toon surroundings he is dwarfed by the hardware. Diane Lane lends equal opportunity to the law profession, but she's no Sandra Bullock (Demolition Man) in wit or warmth. Armand Assante as Rico, Dredd's nemesis, claims dibs on Dennis Hopper's rejected roles in the future.

Stallone's movie has its moments, just not enough of them. At least, in a comic book one can flip past the slow parts.


Judge Dredd

Director: Danny Cannon

Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Diane Lane, Armand Assante, Rob Schneider

Screenplay: William Wisher and Steven DeSouza

Rating: R; violence, profanity

Running time: 92 min.

Studio: Hollywood Pictures