Castor’s Underrated Gems – Judgment Night (1993)

A few months ago, Emilio Estevez’s latest directorial foray The Public and I remarked how much his truancy from cinema left a void of earnest, sweat-suffused affability. Reeling back to the early 90’s, I’d macadamize that he was the best of the Brat Pack crew and his lead efforts were always stratified by his altruistic appeal.

For Emilio’s zenithal movies though, he has always been a cog in an ensemble and 1993’s breathless sleeper Judgment Night is bolstered by the brotherly camaraderie among the beleaguered quartet of Estevez, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jeremy Piven and Stephen Dorff. Not once does the valence between them feel ersatz and Estevez is beautifully intrepid as an emotionally callow family man.

Denis Leary is mildly miscast in scenes when his crime czar Fallon is expatiating stand-up riffs about Monopoly and the Avon lady. To be fair though, the cheeky one-liners are distinct discrepancies from other more monosyllabic villains of the era. When surrounded by black hoodlums, Fallon’s stranglehold isn’t as ubiquitous but through his motormouth intellect, he cajoles them to be informants.

In terms of quintessential city-slicker consternation, Stephen Hopkins can always galvanize the nerves of yuppies with his depictions of gangland warfare ala this and Predator 2. When the Winnebago is compressed between two freight containers, the jaundiced-yellow lightning from the headlights is expressionistically macabre and Alan Silvestri’s proto-Predator score is a suitably gaudy treat.

When Ray Cochran (Jeremy Piven) feigns that his cell phone is deactivated after an ostensible hit-and-run, it is an affidavit that you never want to be yoked with Piven during an inclement crisis. Just as when he skewered the Vegas prostitute in the brilliant, olive-black comedy Very Bad Things, Piven is superbly weaselly and craven when the chips are down. The only member not to ascend past a hoary cliche is Dorff as the always pugnacious younger brother of Francis (Estevez).

From that point onward, the film is an adumbral, throttling cat-and-mouse chase through Chicago’s netherworld. In the overview of the plot, contrivances about loquacious homeless men in a train compartment and paranoid apartment dwellers, are relatively negligible qualms.

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