RETRO REVIEW – ‘Judgement Night’

Review by J.T. Johnson

ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: October 15, 1993
DIRECTOR: Stephen Hopkins
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Peter Levy
WRITER: Lewis Colick
MUSIC: Alan Silvestri

Back in 1994, my dad and I would rent movies every Friday night and stay up all night viewing the latest releases. One Friday, dad picked out “Judgment Night”, a little seen film released in October 1993. The film did not make much money at the box-office, but I do remember my father and I being entertained. Recently, I came across the film again and decided to see if it still worked.

The film has a very simple plot. Frank Wyatt (Emilio Estevez) has decided that he finally needs a night away from his wife and his baby daughter. He has decided to spend an evening with Mike Peterson (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and Ray Cochran (Jeremy Piven). After another friend cancelled on them, Frank decided to invite his younger brother, John (Stephen Dorff).

Once they are gridlocked on the interstate, Ray decides to get off and take another route through the seedy inner city. When Ray is distracted by Mike, he accidentally hits someone and the friends go out to help. Soon, they discover that the man has been shot and is being hunted down by a group of men led by Fallon (Dennis Leary).

The criminals eventually catch up with the man and the guys and Fallon kills the man for stealing from him. Fallon then decides that he does not want any witnesses and the friends find themselves on the run. It is a night that will see the friends going across rooftops, in the sewers and through derelict buildings in an attempt to evade their pursuers.

While the story is simple and entertaining, it is, admittedly, unrealistic at times. A good example of this is the fact that Fallon and his men always seem to find a way to catch up to the characters even though the friends should have gotten away. Also, the story has a little too much paranoia about big city crime that some might find unsettling. While crime in bigger cities is bad, it is blown way out of proportion here.

For the most part, though, the audience finds themselves rooting for the friends and the suspense is definitely there. The only problem is Ray. Piven does his best, but he is absolutely annoying. Ray’s greed runs deep and, at times, it jeopardizes the lives of the other characters. While this is just a part of his character, it is so awful that the audience has a hard time feeling bad for him.

As far as the gang of criminals is concerned, they are menacing enough. Also, the filmmakers made the smart decision to keep the characters enigmatic. The audience never knows more about these characters than Frank and his friends. The audience knows that Fallon is obviously the leader and ruthless enough to do whatever it takes to find the witnesses.

Leary gives a stand-out performance in the film as Fallon. Whether he is explaining the rules of his business to his men, ripping through people’s apartments or taunting his prey when he knows they are nearby, he never loses his menacing demeanor. While the film has its share of shortcomings, Fallon is the film’s most memorable character.

The only other problem with the film is the music. The score is composed by Alan Silvestri and it sounds as if he just recycled his scores from the “Predator” films. While researching this movie, I discovered that the reason behind this was because Silvestri had composed an entirely different score that the filmmakers did not approve of. Therefore, Silvestri had to go back in and re-score the film.

Despite the glaring flaws that the film does contain, there is enough suspense for anyone to at least give it a shot.

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