Cloud Ten presents
Judgement (Apocalypse IV) (2001)
"I want a great lawyer. A man of the people. Someone who exudes the very air of impartiality, on the surface, but ONLY on the surface."- Franco Mascalousso (Nick Mancuso)
Stars: Jessica Steen, Leigh Lewis, Corbin Bernsen
Other Stars: Mr. T, David Gardner, Nick Mancuso
Director: Andre Van Heerden
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for (some violence, disturbing themes)
Run Time: 01h:41m:43s
Release Date: 2001-03-06
DVD ReviewJudgment, based on the original novel, is the fourth and final entry in the Apocalypse series of films. Like The Omega Code and Left Behind, Judgment is part of a new wave of independent Christian filmmaking that uses established actors and considerable budgets to impress the religious, rather than embarrass them with inept, preachy diatribes. While I commend that effort, frankly I liked the 'bad old' days of Christian filmmaking much better.
Judgment is set in the not-too-distant future where the world has been overtaken by a single government controlled by Franco Macalousso (Nick Mancuso), who also happens to be the Anti-Christ. More accurately, it's implied he's the Anti-Christ. Anyway, to be part of this modern society you must pledge allegiance to all things One World-ish, and get "The Mark" inserted into your hand. The Mark being a weird symbol with a microchip, implanted beneath the skin, which looks suspiciously like the Egyptian pyramid-and-eye on the average dollar bill (how's that for anti-Masonic symbolism?). I have not seen the first three Apocalypse films, but I surmised from the plot of this entry that a woman, Helen Hannah (Leigh Lewis), has become the hero of the underground Christian movement that refuses membership in a society that worships Macalousso as a messiah. Here, she is put on trial for "hating humanity," because she convinces people to worship God and Jesus, rather than give their all to the One World Government. She is assigned a lawyer, Mitch Kendrick (Corbin Bernsen), but it doesn't matter since the trial is being staged anyway.
In order to help out the Supreme One World Leader, Kendrick decides to shift the focus of the trial from Hannah, to proving the existence/non-existence of Jesus and God, knowing that, of course, the court will rule that God does not exist. Meanwhile, part of the Christian resistance (led by Mr. T) attempts to put together a plan to rescue Helen Hannah from the farcical trial. Unfortunately, the story here isn't really meant to be fiction or entertaining. It's pretty clear from the movement making these movies that this is basically what some Christians actually believe the future will be like. As fiction, the movie isn't really that good, but as an attempt to dramatize the actual "endtimes," it grows even more depressing and slightly offensive.
I will give credit to the crew that, indeed, there was effort spent in making this a good, solid film about a specific religious belief. However, at the same time, the film's message ultimately will appeal to ONLY those people, really. Maybe I'm just part of an old-fashioned family, but when I was growing up, "Christian" films meant benign things like Oh God!, or something with a positive message. There's really no message here, though. Just lots of misery, death, and scary things happening to innocent people. The film borders on an 'R' rating, yet carries itself as if there's healthy, spiritual messages to be gleaned from all this. I guess the root of the story is that it's dangerous to abandon God, but certainly there's healthier ways to get that across.
I actually tried to accept the film on its own merits, but found it difficult. Indeed, my first reaction to writing about the film was a 10-page, vitriolic rant. The reason for this is that I don't really accept the philosophy present here, and maybe I should just leave it at that. There is a specific mindset that Judgment is made to entertain, and I'm just not of it. Ignoring the religious and political significance of the film, however, I still don't think it's a very good experience.
While the direction and acting are not too bad (except for the exaggerated antics of Mr. T), the film is far too melodramatic. Sets are ridiculously "over-futuristic" and stylish, and become more distracting as the film moves forward. Nick Mancuso chews up so much scenery, he'll have drywall in his teeth. He goes totally overboard as the Anti-Christ, and plays it as if he's Mike Myers' Dr. Evil. Sam Neill as the adult Damien in The Final Conflict was a believable Anti-Christ; alas, Nick Mancuso is not. Anyone who liked the television show L.A. Law will be pleased to know that Corbin Bernsen's character, Arnold Becker, makes an appearance here in the form of central lawyer, Mitch Kendrick.
As a courtroom drama/resistance thriller, there's just no excitement or steam. Although the crew tries hard, there are some budget limitations just too tough to overcome, and sometimes the seams show badly. Although not a crime, certainly this ambition has problems. The only element that earnestly impressed me was the musical score, which was very well composed and handled (although overused at some points). Judgment is not a stupid film, or a film that can easily be laughed at for ineptitude, it's just plain mediocre. It's neither terrible nor great, it simply sits on the screen radiating a certain message that will, most assuredly, offend more people than impress.
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C-
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: For a full-frame picture, Judgment looks pretty good, but has some shimmering and movement in many background textures. Colors are nicely balanced, though, and the image is generally acceptable and sharp.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Although in Dolby Digital 5.1, I honestly don't remember anything special. There was no surround activity (except for some musical carryover), and the film is almost generally monophonic except for some rare stereo effects. This would be pretty bad, except the film is mostly dialogue, so it really doesn't matter much anyway. Nothing is harsh or flat, and everything sounds fine, it's just not a very impressive 5.1 mix. The same can be said for the Spanish language version.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Revelation, Tribulation, Left Behind
3 Deleted Scenes
Extras Review: The biggest supplement is a 30-minute, behind-the-scenes piece. It's well made, and provides a good look into the film's production. There is a lot of discussion with the director, Andre Van Heerden, and general talks with the actors.
A 4-minute reel of deleted footage is presented, but it isn't really deleted scenes, just alternate/longer takes of existing material. Regardless, the scenes are in very good condition, but unfortunately are not indexed individually.
Trailers for other Cloud Ten productions are present along with weblinks and cast/crew biographies. The same biographies are present in a fold-out keepcase insert. Oddly, there is no external chapter listing, but this doesn't hurt the package too much. Although the back of the case lists features like "Making of the Film Score" and "Exclusive Interviews," I'm assuming this references material in the making-of feature, since there are no seperate features with these headings.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsI suppose that, technically, Judgment delivers what it promises, but I just really disagree with the message being sent here. In my opinion, anything labelled "Christian" shouldn't scare me. It should teach something positive; not "give up on the human race, we're doomed." The attempts at a serious, religious drama are respectable, but ultimately fall apart under the weight of the gloom-and-doom, futuristic hell plot. Seek spiritual messages elsewhere.
Dan Lopez 2001-04-10