A lot of eloquent people have already weighed in on the passing of one of cinema’s most galvanizing actors.
I will to this only add, the measure of a great actor is his ability to elevate everything he is in.
And while I saw only a smattering of the 163 films and TV shows he was involved in, of the two dozen or so things I saw him in, I always enjoyed his performance, what he brought to the audience.
And the one that comes to mind first for me, before the masterpiece that is the SEVENTH SEAL or NEEDFUL THINGS or DUNE or STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS or CONAN THE BARBARIAN or EXORCIST or THE MAGICIAN, etc… before all these, the performance of Max Von Sydow that comes to mind first, when I think of him, is his performance in an oft decried movie… the Slyvester Stallone starring and Danny Cannon directed JUDGE DREDD from 1995.
JUDGE DREDD was supposed to be a huge Box Office success, Danny Cannon coming off of critical praise for YOUNG AMERICANS, and with a star in Sylvester Stallone that was coming off three films, that while they didn’t light the world on fire, were good popcorn movies that audiences enjoyed, and managed to make back their investment; JUDGE DREDD was looked at, as a rising tide, that would lift all boats.
In reality it was a raging storm, that almost sunk all involved, a disaster at the box office, and damaged careers left and right.
That said, horrendous Ja-Ja Binks level of non-comedy relief in Rob Schneider aside, the good in this movie far outweighs the bad.
I actually really like this movie. Especially when compared to the 2012 Pete Travis directed DREDD, which a lot of people love; I can not stand that movie. I see it as an inept RAID ripoff, that is just mean-spirited and unlikeable and unenjoyable throughout. Compared to DREDD, I’ll take JUDGE DREDD any day.
And one of the main reasons is Max Von Sydow, he is the main reason. That scene where his character takes the long walk into the Cursed Earth to ‘bring the law to those who have it not’ is not just one of the finest scenes in that movie, it is one of the finest scenes in any movie. I love that one scene, that much. It is more heart and humanity and hope in that one scene than in the entirety of many more acclaimed films.
And it is great direction that makes that scene, but it is also the great gravitas that very few actors can bring to a role, or to a scene, with just their presence and face. Max Von Sydow was, and because film is forever, is that actor.
For me I will always see him as Judge Fargo, meeting his end… by showing us how to meet ours.
That’s all I wanted to share.
If I can find that scene, or part of it, I’ll link it below. But the film is worth revisiting, if for nothing more, Max Von Sydow’s long and last walk, into the Cursed Earth.