Release Date(s)1993 (January 8, 2019)
Studio(s)Largo Entertainment/JVC Entertainment/Universal Pictures (Warner Archive Collection)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: F+
Going through a number of different writers before finally landing as a final shooting script, 1993’s Judgment Night came and went with little to no fanfare, failing at the box office but eventually finding a cult audience on home video. Directed by Stephen Hopkins (Predator 2, The Ghost and the Darkness), this cat-and-mouse thriller also changed hands over the years due to the collapse of Largo Entertainment, though it was originally released through Universal Pictures.
Three childhood friends—Frank (Emilio Estevez), Mike (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), Ray (Jeremy Piven), and Mike’s little brother John (Stephen Dorff)—go out for an evening of heavyweight boxing together. After being stuck in traffic on the way there, they pull off the main freeway to take a shortcut and find themselves lost in a dilapidated neighborhood. After witnessing a murder by a gang of street thugs led by Fallon (Denis Leary), they are chased through the empty buildings and dark alleyways, eventually having to take a stand or potentially never making it out alive.
Stylish from the word go (thanks to Stephen Hopkins’ direction), Judgment Night is also a straightforward story with little to no wiggle room for B plot. The lead characters must get away, but as the story progresses, we learn more about Fallon and his men as well, making things a little less black and white. Denis Leary, who appeared in no less than five films that same year, manages to give the role an iciness mixed with black humor. He clearly has the chops, which he would get a chance to prove again later on in his career with the hit TV show Rescue Me.
The rest of the cast is littered with familiar faces, three of which (Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jeremy Piven, Stephen Dorff) were not stars at the time. It’s part of the reason why the film has had legs beyond its genre trappings, but also due to a memorable hip-hop/hard rock soundtrack. At its core though, Judgment Night is a solid film. It may not bring much new to the table, but the performances are strong and the movie looks slick from beginning to end.
Warner Archive brings Judgment Night to Blu-ray sporting a new transfer taken from a 2K scan of the film’s interpositive. It’s a healthy presentation of the film—the best it’s ever had in fact. Grain levels are attenuated well, presenting a fine sheen that is never intrusive but entirely organic. Fine detail, particularly in the murky night environments that the film takes place in, is robust. Black levels are deep with excellent shadow detail—from clothing to buildings, and interiors to exteriors. The color palette offers a decent variety early on, but dips to mostly blacks, oranges, and tans once the chase is on. Hues are represented well though, as are skin tones. It’s also a stable and clean presentation with next to no damage of any kind leftover.
The audio is included in English 5.1 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. The soundtrack also offers muscle in its presentation. The film begins mostly in the front speakers, but as it progresses, the surrounding channels are taken full advantage of. Explosions, gunfire, ambiance, music, and score all come through with great energy. Dialogue exchanges are clear and precise as well. It’s a very active soundtrack, to say the least.
Sadly there are no extras, but the A/V presentation is so strong that it can be forgiven for now. Perhaps in the future, Judgment Night might get a decent extras package, including vintage materials (perhaps an audio commentary from the director); but for now, Warner Archive’s stellar Blu-ray release will just have to suffice.
– Tim Salmons