The plot of this action film begins in 1996, with Los Angeles in a violence-crazed conflagration. One of the LAPD's most notorious cops, John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone), known as "the demolition man," is in hot pursuit of blonde-haired psychopath Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes), who is so nasty he even kills sometimes just because he feels cranky. John captures Simon, but not before Simon kills innocent hostages. John is blamed for the deaths of the hostages, and both he and Simon are cryogenically frozen to remove their brand of ultra-violence from a society that is simply just too violent. The film shifts to the future world of 2032, where Los Angeles has become a megalopolis called San Angeles. There is no poverty, Arnold Schwarzenegger was (at one time) president of the United States, and Taco Bell is the sole survivor of the Franchise Wars. Into this peaceful and bland society, Simon is summarily defrosted by reigning benevolent dictator Dr. Cocteau (Nigel Hawthorne) to have Simon murder Edgar Friendly (Denis Leary), the leader of a group of underground rebels. But Cocteau bites off more than he can chew when the melted-down Simon proceeds to go on a murder-and-looting spree. Reluctantly, Cocteau defrosts John to hunt down his old adversary. As John adjusts to self-driving cars and having sex wearing helmets, he pairs up with Lenina Huxley (Sandra Bullock), a bored cop with a nostalgic fascination for 20th-century culture.~Paul Brenner
Commentary by director Marco Brambilla and producer Joel Silver
Director Marco Brambilla somehow wasn’t able to parlay much of a career out of the success he found with his 1993 debut, DEMOLITION MAN. In any case, the Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes starring sci fi actioner with a satirical bite still holds up. Featuring a strong supporting cast, some solid comedy, high production values, and great fight sequences, I enjoyed the heck out of the film after upgrading from VHS to blu ray this week.
In the near future of 1996, Los Angeles supercop John Spartan (Stallone, nearing the end of his peak), who’s also known by the moniker of “Demolition Man” because of his property damaging tendencies, fails to rescue thirty hostages while apprehending the brutal crime lord, Simon Phoenix (a deliciously over the top Snipes). As a result, both are placed in suspended animation for decades in a newly implemented cryo prison. However, in 2032 Phoenix escapes from a parole hearing into a seemingly utopian society that’s been sanitized to the extreme and is mostly populated by effete weaklings. Phoenix immediately commits the first murders in decades with the police proving to be completely ineffective against his ultraviolent methods. A 20th century obsessed cop (Sandra Bullock in a role that propelled her to stardom) suggests waking up Spartan since he was responsible for bringing down Phoenix in the previous century. Spartan, a traditional man’s man, soon finds himself out of place in a humorous but plausible civilization that’s banned anything “bad” like salt and swearing while trying to track down Phoenix. All is not as it seems, though, as underground dwelling revolutionaries led by Edgar Friendly (Dennis Leary basically personifying his comedy routines) attempt to upend the bland status quo.
Much humor is found in skewering the ideals of the rotten beneath the surface utopia that values flavorless safety and politeness over everything else. While it’s never mean spirited, the film definitely has something to say and weaves this message into the narrative. It also lands a few jokes about the proliferation of corporatization. You may not agree with some of the points the film attempts to make but it’s this aspect that truly makes it memorable. Spartan and Phoenix’s reactions to this alien society are the inverse of each other and allow for both humor and sincerity.
In addition to the megastar power of Stallone, Snipes, Bullock, and Leary, there’s also Benjamin Bratt as a typically sensitive but good-natured cop, Bob Gunton as the condescending police chief, Nigel Hawthorne as the powerful architect of the utopia, and Glenn Shadix a memorably sycophantic lackey. Rob Schneider, Jack Black, and Jesse Ventura all have bit roles, as well. Everyone involved sells cowriters Daniel Waters, Robert Reneau, and Peter Lenkov’s quirky futuristic dialog. Perhaps the only writing flaw (which could also just be a result of something being cut out) is the pathos Spartan could feel at the loss of his wife and his willingness to get into bed with Bullock’s character. In the end, though, that’s not really the type of movie this is.
Special effects, costumes, and set designs are all top notch. Working together, they create a very immersive and believably futuristic environment. Also, the fight scenes are very well done. They’re nicely filmed, but it’s Snipes physical prowess and abilities that really drive the choreography. He absolutely appears to be quite formidable, which brings me to another strength of the picture. Spartan and Phoenix are evenly matched. Every scene is filmed as to give the impression that it could go either way, with the actors making an interesting pairing. It’s not like in COMMANDO where Arnold Schwarzenegger clearly outclassed Vernon Wells.
Marco Brambilla’s DEMOLITION MAN is still a great time and is still relevant despite satirizing cultural and societal trends of the ‘90s. The Sting performed theme song that plays over the closing credits is laughably bad and misplaced, but that’s a fairly minor flaw. Everything else pretty much works and it’s entertaining as all get out to see Stallone, Snipes, and Bullock play in fully realized futuristic world. Highly recommended.
I’ve been looking for a BluRay version of this for a while. It’s very funny, and there are aspects that look really present to people today (such as control of language).
It may seem like a silly actioner, and it is, but it’s also a good flick that you should see at least once.
Sometimes you just want to enjoy one of those over the top 90's style action movies... For me, this is one of those movies that I have to revisit once a year to fill that need. Comedy, action, that nostalgic late 80's - early 90's music and sound effects... If you're also a fan of these type of movie and have not yet seen this then it is for sure worth the buy. It will leave you trying to figure out just how the heck those 3 sea shells work... for the rest of your life.
the birth of the greatest question know to man started here. And you still dont know how they used the 3 shells. But one of the last cliche action films that actually aged well this movie really got better with time.