Judgment Night (1993) — Maybe MapQuest your route next time

“Don’t move, don’t whisper, don’t even BREATHE!”

Justin’s rating: And then the sequel, Judgment Tea Time

Justin’s review: Have you ever thought of Denis Leary as a stone-cold movie villain? Sarcastic anti-hero, perhaps, stealing scenes in Demolition Man and The Ref. But a murderous drug dealer whose motor mouth is a prelude to imminent homicide? That’s the tall order that Judgment Night had to fill back in 1993.

Weirdly enough, it actually kind of pulled it off. I guess when you need an equal adversary to a Mighty Duck out of his element, a drunk Irish comedian is the one to call.

This taut thriller stars Emilio Estevez, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jeremy Piven, and Stephen Dorff as a group of buddies taking a “please steal me” RV to a Chicago boxing match. But they get off on the wrong exit and stumble onto a crime scene involving stolen money, an executed thief, and a very irate drug kingpin — and suddenly this quartet of always arguing suburbanites are getting a new kind of education. You know, on the streets.

That’s the basic setup. The rest of the film is these four doofuses trying to escape the warren of inner-city death traps that await anyone whose GPS leads them astray. I’ve seen Judgment Night defined as “Deliverance in the city,” and I can kind of see it. I think everyone has a fear of finding themselves stranded in a location that’s strange and unwelcoming. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture the giant target on your ignorant back.

Despite the commentary on how cities wall off entire segments of society from each other, Judgment Night isn’t that subtle of a film. It’s more like a first-class ride of tension where we’re not entirely sure if these yuppies shouldn’t be put through the ringer.

Judgment Night is a mid-tier movie that was largely ignored upon its release, only to gradually gain increased respect in the decades that followed. The everyman casting of non-traditional action heroes, one of the all-time great ’90s movie soundtracks, and a series of nail-biting setpieces made this a great film to rediscover. My only problem with it is that I generally hate super-tense thrillers, because I don’t enjoy squirming for two hours. But if you’re made of stronger stuff than me, then give this one a try.

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