Trap Them’s Ryan McKenney on Judgment Night
Judgment Night trailer
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Just to make everything clear before I get into all of this, I do not believe in the whole "so bad it's good" thing.
I think it's a total cop-out that's used by those that are scared to give a real opinion. I put it right up there with "I liked their first record, but everything after that sucked." (Boom. Roasted.)
I'm saying this because someone is bound to think I'm fucking with them when I talk about the movie/soundtrack that I'm about to dive into.
Judgment Night, motherfuckers.
This is, unquestionably, one of my favorite films of the '90s. Chock full of an all-star B-list cast, great scenes of violence, and... Everlast, it was a 100+ minute R-rated game of cat-and-mouse.
I first found out about it when Denis Leary was on the Letterman show a few months before it came out. He quickly mentioned the plot and made a little comment about Everlast (of House of Pain, for you sadly uninformed...) being one of the Irish thugs. This, of course, piqued my interest until I saw the first trailer and got all weak in the knees. I love "wrong side of the tracks" films. Love them. And this little bastard was going to give me a nice dose.
Judgment Night came out in the perfect era for me: 1993, 16 years old, and a freshman in my shitty little high school. Optimal time to sneak into an R-rated film and bask in its glory, which I very much did.
The opening scenes of Emilio Estevez saying goodbye to his wife before Jeremy Pivens drives down the street in a huge RV, talking shit....classic. You know the deal...big guys night out, headed to a boxing match, etc., etc., etc., blah blah blah. It doesn't really matter where they were going, you just knew it was all going to go wrong. The rest of the bro-crew was made up of Stephen Dorff (playing Emilio's delinquent brother-in-law) and Cuba Gooding, Jr. (in one of his most over-acted roles EVER. Right up there with everything Crispin Glover has done. Cuba....what happened? Did playing a mentally challenged water boy in Radio flip a switch in you?).
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I'm not going to dissect the whole movie, so I'll hit the "wrap it up" box and do this lightning fast. Evidently, I'm long-winded.
1 - Traffic jam on the way to the match.
2 - "We're going to miss the fight!"
3 - "No way...I know this shortcut off the highway that I've never taken....let's do it!"
4 - "Fuck...where are we?"
5 - You, my fine men, are in the gritty south side of Chicago, which, evidently, has become some sort of post-apocalyptic war zone.
6 - Fallon (Denis Leary) shoots the dude from 21 Jump Street in the head. He then sees the lost boys have witnessed the murder.
7 - "No witnesses! Get them!"
8 - RV accident.
9 - Dudes on the run while Fallon and his merry men of crime chase after them. (Gang includes Everlast and awesome character actor Peter Greene.)
10 - A lot of people die.
11 - Fantastic final showdown.
Okay. I got it all out of the way. Quick enough for you? Good.
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Now, let me dissect a few things to support my opinion.
Everyone in this film nails their role... perfectly. Pivens plays a slime ball smooth talker. Cuba plays the dude with "pride" that's ready to back his boys. Dorff plays a spazz. Estevez is like he is in most roles, which is the everyman that has to stand up and defend his life in order to make it back home to his family.
Leary is fucking amazing as the gang leader/sadistic asshole. This is due to two major reasons: first, he's Irish. Second, he's from New England. I think this also explains a lot about me to myself.
Everlast basically looks like he left a House of Pain video and went straight to filming the movie, wearing a skully shoved down on his head and a huge flannel. Ahhh, '90s hip-hop fashion....I love you and miss you.
So many dudes get shot in the stomach and chest, it's impressive. Every death is sensible enough, and it's all done with a darkened drama that is quite impressive. If you want to say the film is far-fetched, then get the fuck out. There's this thing called "suspension of disbelief". Get into it.
At the root, it's the simple tale of escaping a bad scene, and it's done extremely well. When you think about it, a lot of films from that era in this vein are crap. Even the "violence" was lame. While Judgment Night wasn't the most graphic piece, it didn't really need to be, seeing as the film was written and directed so well. From the moment that RV took a wrong turn, the next 90 minutes or so are in the dark... great scenes of bums in front of fires while the guys try to run for their lives. What I'm trying to say is that the picture painted within was executed to a degree where you had no time to second-guess anything. They threw the plot at you and just let you sit and ride it out.
The finale is both justifiable and rewarding. The whole "hide and seek", "shoot to kill" stuff never gets old to me. Neither does the "unsuspected death scene shocker".
I watch this film probably six or seven times a year, and I never get bored. If you haven't given it a chance, well....it's time. Get shitty and soak in all of its glory.
Judgment Night spawned a new era of these type of films, but none of them came close to what this one accomplished.
A little side note: This film was a catapult for a lot of the actors' careers or, at the very least, kept them relevant. Leary went on to more films and 50 seasons of Rescue Me, just as Pivens stole the show each and every time he played Ari Gold on Entourage. Dorff is still awesome. Peter Greene still plays a brutal motherfucker in almost every thriller he's in. Even director Stephen Hopkins was recognized for his talents, and has had a pretty steady career behind the camera since 1993.
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Now that I've gotten my celluloid love out of the way, let me give another reason why this golden nugget is so crucial: the soundtrack.
Whoever thought of this was fucking brilliant.
"Let's do a whole soundtrack with top hip-hop acts and rock bands collaborating......you know, like "Bring the Noise" in 12 parts".
Yes, please, and thank you.
Anyone who wants to argue the importance of this release is officially banned from listening to music anymore. Yeah, I get it....it kinda caused nu-metal. Who gives a fuck? Not I.
Granted, there are a few clunkers (Sir Mix-a-Lot? Come on.), but the great works cancel the few missteps out.
There are so many acts that were at the top of their game, the opportunity to hear a combined effort couldn't have worked out better.
Onyx and Biohazard's title track was ridiculous. Allowing Sticky Fingaz to freak out over pseudo-hardcore riffs was insane. Big-ass posse vocals for the chorus was the icing.
In the early '90s, the Soul Assassins crew was a pretty dominating force, and both Cypress Hill and House of Pain showcased why on this soundtrack. Cypress Hill contributed to two songs, " I Love You Mary Jane" and "The Real Thing", with Sonic Youth and Pearl Jam, respectively. I never went through much of an alt-rock phase, but both bands supplied a perfect backdrop to B-Real's nasal-ridden flow. "Mary Jane" is a great little weed-soaked track, while "The Real Thing" with Pearl Jam gave a hint of why Cypress Hill would end up doing tours like Lollapalooza.
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House of Pain and Helmet's "Just Another Victim" is the closest to white-boy rap-rock that could ever be considered permissible. It may be the only thing Helmet has ever done that I think doesn't suck, but that's mostly thanks to Everlast. Say what you want about the corn fed cracker and his "simplistic" rhyming skills, but he brings it. Also, what some may not realize is that he freestyles every track he does.... no pen to paper, just off the top of his head. I consider that pretty damn impressive.
A few others are particularly noteworthy, specifically Faith No More and Boo-Ya Tribe's "Another Body Murdered" and Fatal/Therapy?'s "Come and Die". Both decided to go a pretty heavy route and succeeded in making two three-minute explosions.
The sleeper and best track, by far, was Teenage Fanclub (really?) and De La Soul's "Fallin'". It's such an amazingly laid-back and finely-crafted piece of work. I think it makes such an impact because it's pretty much a classic De La track with some little tweaks from some alternative band who knew to just step back and let the masters do their thing. Everything about this song...the lyrics, the flow, the subtle vocal harmonies and finger snapping in the background....goddamn, what an awesome track.
Over the years, I've hunted down almost every 12" single from the soundtrack, which each contain some pretty great remixes. You can mostly find them in the clearance bins, which is simultaneously exciting and completely sad.
I guess Rage Against the Machine and Tool did a song for this that didn't make it on the release in time. Good. Both bands give me a headache and this big pile of dweebs together probably made a load of crap....unless they did an Inside Out cover (Ohhhhhh shit! I went there!).
So that's it. The film rules. The soundtrack rules. The end.
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JUDGMENT NIGHT : THE VIDEOS
Helmet - "Just Another Victim"
(Everlast live cameo)
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Faith No More & Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. - "Another Body Murdered"
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Biohazard & Onyx - "Judgment Night"
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Teenage Fanclub & De La Soul - "Fallin'"
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