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Judgment Night (Blu-ray Review)

While boasting a notable male cast and being in the heat of the pure action movie golden age, Stephen Hopkin’s Judgment Night didn’t really take off in theaters and wound up a $12 million dollar kinda also-ran, if even considered a small hit. Where I think this film did its business and became memorable was in being a hot rental title. Everyone seemed to have this one and Emilio Estevez was a pretty big name at this time to make one curious to check it out. Warner Archive Collection is giving the film its due by putting it out onto Blu-ray this month. Its a title that seemed to be on many’s wishlists over the last couple years and they can finally own this upgrade. Judgment Night is available for order now, and you can use the Amazon link below to own it.

Film 

A harrowing journey of four suburban men into the nightmarish neighborhood of Chicago’s crime-infested underworld. On their way to a boxing match, four young men (Emilio Estevez, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Stephen Dorff, Jeremy Piven) in a state-of-the-art RV take a wrong turn and witness a gang murder. Now, the killer’s boss (Denis Leary) cannot let them live, and starts hunting the friends down through Chicago’s meanest streets…  With a powerhouse cast this edge-of-your-seat thriller takes viewers on a life and death road-trip into terror.

Judgment Night can’t fully be taken seriously to be enjoyed. You have to accept its ridiculousness and heightened levels of drama to see and get the fun in it. Its a film that lives in its own world and makes its own rules, and always adheres and plays by them. Everyone in the film also seems to be buying into it as well. Its easy to see why the film has taken on more of a cult status and didn’t swing it or even appeal to popular audiences. But if you enjoy B-action movies, this’ll hit a unique spot.

Stephen Hopkins isn’t a household name by any means, but the man has put in some really solid work, probably more artistically revered in his television work (24, House of Lies, Life and Death of Peter Sellers, Tales From the Crypt, Californication) than he is film. But, I’m an oddball and I’ll actually go to bat to an extent for his franchise film entries he made earlier in his career (Predator 2, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child). Here, he really only shows the chops of being able to manage and get big, necessary over the top performances from his cast while delivering in some static, but fluid action pieces. He makes the world they play in totally come to life and believable despite how silly it is when you stop and think for a moment.

The cast here looks pretty big, but they weren’t when the film came out and nowadays probably isn’t as stacked as it would’ve looked in the late 90s (Yes, years after it came out) at the rental store. Emilio Estevez was the big headliner. Cuba Gooding Jr. hadn’t won an Oscar yet, Dennis Leary was that kind outside the box try, Jeremy Piven was a character actor for hire and Stephen Dorff was a dude they were trying to make a “thing”. Leary probably shines most of all as he is one bad, untrusting guy that makes you uncomfortable with his unpredictability on screen. The fact you enjoy him as a comedian going in builds a completely false sense of comfort in his moments. Our protagonists actual gel quite nicely and have a chemistry that really establishes camaraderie that can lead to in-fighting but out of respect not hatred.

Judgment Night is what it is, honestly. Not trying to sound damning, as I generally enjoy the film (Could be a little bit shorter, though). It features a unique story and a good cast of guys that you enjoy seeing work with one another and don’t want to see any harm done to the them. It has a strong villain and the action is good enough with solid blood and make-up effects to make this a kind of good midnight action film pounder.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Warner Archive Collection brings Judgment Night to Blu-ray with a more than serviceable transfer. Movies of the 1990s can have this sort of look to them that tends to not lend itself to being pretty if a lot of money isn’t going into it. Still, this one features a pretty genuine picture with a sharp enough image and good detail to make this an easily above average performer.

Depth:  Spacing in foreground and background for the depth of field is merely “solid”. Motion works naturally and cinematic with no real concerning motion issues.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and carry more of the grain in the darkened corridor and nighttime sequences of the film. No crushing witnessed on this viewing.

Color Reproduction: The film is a more natural looker. Color bursts tend to come with a bloody face or a flashier article of clothing. Fire does give a nice roar from the image in its appearance in frame.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent form beginning to end of the film. Facial features are mostly discernible in close up shots, but most medium ones do a decent job in portraying the texture.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: Judgment Night features a solid 5.1 that is pretty front-heavy standard with some moments in the rear channels in ambiance and motion that will have one perk up and impressed. Overall the mix is well balanced in showcasing the vocals, effects and music while also not letting one another step on each’s toes.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Most of the subwoofer bump caters to gunfire, punches, crashes and other natural thumps that can come across in the mix.

Surround Sound Presentation: While not constant, this one does have its fun moments of utilizing the rear speakers with some fun motion and strategic sound placement.

Dialogue Reproduction: Clear and good enough. Always prominent no matter how crazy the action.

Extras 

Judgment Night contains no bonus material.

Summary 

Stephen Hopkin’s Judgment Night was meant for commercial consumption, but is a perfect 1990s B-level action romper that works within the confines of itself very well. Warner Archive Collection has brought the film to Blu-ray with a pretty solid presentation, but unfortunately there are zero extras (No trailer even? Boo!). If you enjoy the film and need to own it in the best quality its available in, then the Warner Archive disc should be the easiest of pickups!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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