Directed by Stephen Hopkins, JUDGMENT NIGHT takes four pampered suburbanites and four bloodthirsty neighborhood criminals, places them in the worst part of downtown Chicago, winds 'em up, and lets 'em go. The result is an exciting, although pointless, race through the dark and menacing
streets of Chicago's West Side.
Determined to shake his reputation as an emasculated, house-bound family man, Frank Wyatt (Emilio Estevez) agrees to accompany his friends Mike (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and Ray (Jeremy Piven) to the big boxing match in downtown Chicago, inviting along his rebellious younger brother, John (Stephen
Dorff). Ray, a smarmy businessman, has appropriated a gigantic RV for the ride, complete with wet bar, home stereo, television, and satellite dish. Since traffic is at a crawl, the foursome decide to try a short cut through the city. Though the route takes them through some of the most nightmarish
areas of town, spirits in the RV remain high--until Ray hits a young boy. Stopping to help, they discover the boy has been shot, and is carrying hundreds of dollars in a bloody paper bag. After carrying him into the RV, they take off in search of help. Speeding down the abandoned streets, the van
is sideswiped by a black Cadillac and careens into a narrow alley. The boy is dragged from the RV by three hoods and brought before gang leader Fallon (Denis Leary). Found guilty of stealing, the boy is executed; the four hoods then turn to Frank and his friends, to ensure that there are no
Panicked, the four suburbanites escape out the front of the RV and flee into the heart of the city. Fallon and his men pursue them relentlessly through the railyard, the projects, and even the sewer system. At one point the woefully unathletic Ray stops running and attempts to buy his friends'
freedom with a gold pinky ring and a $200,000 IOU, but the maniacal Fallon throws him off the roof of an apartment building. Tired and wounded, the three remaining friends make their stand in a grocery store, with Frank and Fallon squaring off at the finale.
At times, the word "formulaic" seems too weak to describe JUDGMENT NIGHT. The headlong flight of Frank and his friends through the empty and unforgiving streets, chased by the single-minded and untiring Fallon, is reminiscent of DELIVERANCE and THE TERMINATOR, as is the transformation of the
foursome (with the exception of Ray) from naive suburbanites into urban warriors pushed to the point of retaliation. However, director Hopkins maintains the film's tension well; the frantic chase sequences are interspersed with scenes in which the men, in hiding, wait breathlessly for the hoods to
pass them by. There are also some interesting scenes wherein Frank's safe, suburban world is sharply contrasted with Fallon's; near the beginning of the film, for example, the decked-out RV (essentially a rolling bubble of suburbia) is superimposed against the backdrop of drunken vagrants and
The actors deliver believable performances, especially Leary, a vituperative stand-up comic known best for sneaker commercials and MTV appearances. He portrays the murderous Fallon--a role in which he could have easily gone over the top--with surprising restraint. The performances of Gooding
(BOYZ N THE HOOD) and Dorff (POWER OF ONE) also lend three-dimensionality to otherwise flat characters. Estevez, however, adopts a grim, defensive countenance within the film's first minutes and maintains it throughout, making his own metamorphosis from house-husband to hero a little more
difficult to swallow. (Violence, profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1993
- Rating: R
- Review: Directed by Stephen Hopkins, JUDGMENT NIGHT takes four pampered suburbanites and four bloodthirsty neighborhood criminals, places them in the worst part of downtown Chicago, winds 'em up, and lets 'em go. The result is an exciting, although pointless, race… (more)