Anyone remember the film Judgement Night? It’s the story of four suburban buddies (Emilio Estevez, Cuba Gooding Jr., Stephen Dorff & Jeremy Piven) on their way to a boxing match who make an ill-fated exit off the highway and end up lost in Chicago’s grim inner city (in a lavish RV no less!). There they witness a brutal murder and end up on the radar of the killer himself (a fine turn by Denis Leary). The rest of the film has the four pals on the run from said killer in a very dimly lit part of town that apparently does not have any police presence or working pay phones. Typical.
The film, directed by the capable Stephen Hopkins in 1993, makes for fine viewing (if plausibility isn’t high on your list of movie requirements) but the story is pretty standard fare – comfortable middle-class types thrown into a hellish urban landscape and forced to fight for their lives. Nothing we ain’t seen before…yes? Its soundtrack, however, was another story. It’s quite remarkable.
Back in the late 80’s to early 90’s, hip-hop music was at its heyday. Acts like Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Cypress Hill and many others were getting regular airplay on the radio and were the darlings of the popular Yo! MTV Raps TV series. During that same time, another sound had begun to rear it’s ugly head: Grunge. Led by groups like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden & Alice In Chains, Grunge dominated the radio airwaves and MTV throughout most of the 90’s.
Which brings me back to “Judgement Night”. The genius of the soundtrack was that it combined some of the best hip-hop acts of the time with some of the best grunge/hard rock/metal acts. Can you say Slayer & Ice T? Helmet & House of Pain? Mudhoney & Sir Mix-A-Lot? How about Pearl Jam & Cypress Hill? You heard right.
In short, the “Judgement Night” soundtrack was perhaps the finest implementation of the genre unification concept…ever. That’s right, ever. Oh, I know the idea of fusing hip-hop and hard rock has been done before – most notably Run DMC’s collaboration with Aerosmith on Walk This Way as well as Public Enemy and Anthrax on Bring The Noise. But an entire album? Never.
Unfortunately, over the last 10-15 years, hip-hop has become a hollow shell of what it once was. It’s now a bunch of soon-to-be-broke “rappers” flashing their “bling” in front of rented Bentleys while “making it rain” dollar bills over scantily-clad, big-breasted women hanging on to, or in the general vicinity of, a stripper pole. The hard rock scene has also seen a bit of a decline since the death of Kurt Cobain and grunge as we knew it. This is not to say it’s anywhere near what hip-hop (rap) has become but it ain’t what it used to be when Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, & Pearl Jam dominated most radio stations. And Metal? Metal still drones on, attracting a new generation of fans (mostly teenagers) despite recycling guitar riffs and lyrics that go back 20+ years to its glory days.
So why not revisit an album that captures these musical genres while at their peaks? Like the four friends in the film, get off the main road and get lost for a while in the grim but highly enjoyable musical landscape of the film’s soundtrack. Without the psychotic killer and his evil henchmen trying to kill you, of course.
Here’s the full album on Spotify. Warning: FIERCE!
So what are some of your favorite movie soundtracks? Share them…
[NOTE: This post was first published back in 2010. It still holds as true today as it did then.]