Review of Demolition Man
In 1993, two films vied for the summer box office, two event movies starring the two most bankable stars of the time. Arnold Schwarzenegger, coming off the back of the Smash, Terminator II starred in The Last Action Hero. Sylvester Stallone, having made a career comeback in Cliffhanger had this, Demolition Man as his vehicle. Both films spoofed the other actor. Sly as T2 in Last Action Hero and Arnie as President in Demolition Man. That was all that the two films had in common. Last Action Hero managed the singular feat of being able to suck and blow at the same time, whereas Demolition Man was O.K in a not bad-ish sort of way.
Demolition Man starts in Los Angeles of 1996, a city devastated by riots and ruled by criminal mobs. Simon Phoenix, played by Wesley Snipes being the biggest criminal of all. When a municipal bus is hijacked by Phoenix, John Spartan (Stallone) comes to the rescue. Blasting into Phoenix` lair in a hailstorm of bullets he apprehends the villain, but is unable to find the hostages. Unbeknownst to Spartan, Phoenix has already killed the hostages and rigged his hideout to explode. Spartan and his prisoner escape the explosion, but when the bodies of the hostages are found, Spartan is found guilty of their deaths by his recklessness. With Phoenix convicted of his crimes, both men are sentenced to decades frozen in a cryo prison. Fast forward to the year 2032, when San Angeles is a utopia, with all `bad` things made illegal and the populace complacent in their happy prosperity. Crime no longer exists and the police force fulfil a ceremonial role only, with graffiti their only problem. Simon Phoenix is thawed into this world for what should be a routine and pointless parole hearing. However, whilst frozen, Phoenix has been programmed with all the information he requires to survive in the 21st Century, including the password to his restraints. He subsequently escapes and embarks on a violent rampage of mayhem and murder. Distraught and completely out of their depth, the San Angeles police in desperation thaw John Spartan to apprehend the fiend. To ameliorate the culture clash, he is assigned a partner, Lenina Huxley played by Sandra Bullock. Huxley unfortunately, is obsessed with the 20th Century, though she has trouble with the colloquialisms.
Demolition Man is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen format. This is where the good news ends. The picture varies from the acceptable to the atrocious with grain evident throughout. There is enough grain to plant a field, to supply a distillery. There is more grain than in a loaf of Mighty White. Add to that eye-catching moiré in several scenes. This is unacceptable, even for a single layer disc. The picture is worst during the driving scenes, when the windscreen affects the picture quality even more. The design of the film is quasi-futuristic, with primary colours and clean vistas dominating. Future Californians dress in Kimonos and eat at Taco Bell. Everyone drives a bubble car and share joy-joy feelings. The futurism seems to have been spray-painted on willy-nilly just for the sake of the look and no thought has been paid to whether the future actually works. It`s like one of those World Fairs of the fifties. The effects are variable, the freezing sequence and subsequent thawing are highlights, but some scenes seem amateurish, particularly the final explosion and subsequent fire in the cryo prison, it seems as if the image was just pasted on.
You get a DD 5.1 English Soundtrack for your trouble and it is remarkably well accomplished considering the picture. Action is well represented and the viewer is well immersed in the film. It`s a shame about the music. It feels every expense was spared. I can hardly remember any to describe, but it consisted of bangs and crashes that I suppose the composer meant as futuristic. It just sounds cheap. Sting provides the title tune, and if you`re a fan this may be a redeeming feature. It`s not one of his better songs though.
These are just some random ramblings of a weary reviewer who can`t think of an imaginative way of saying there are no extras. But let`s be honest, would you really want any?
Stallone doesn`t have much luck with comedies. Tango and Cash was lamentable and Stop, Or My Mom Will Shoot was simply dire. In Demolition Man, however, he is far more at ease. He plays his tough guy persona well, without a hint of irony and lets the comedy speak for itself. He doesn`t really have to work at this kind of role and it comes off effortlessly. Wesley Snipes as Phoenix, is a laughable character. Lacking any sense of malice, Phoenix is more a comic book character. He wouldn`t look out of place in the Batman movies. Snipes` character is enjoyable, if simply in his outrageousness, but to quote Phoenix directly, " Ooooh, I`m soo scared!" Sandra Bullock has an early credit as Lenina Huxley. All the trademarks are there, the cute quirkiness and charming smile that is the staple of so many rom-coms these days. The late Sir Nigel Hawthorne camps it up as the villainous Dr Raymond Cocteau. The usual Hollywood English bad-guy, Hawthorne is simply having fun in this lightweight role. Denis Leary appears as Edgar Friendly, the leader of the Scraps. Every time I have seen Leary, (Loaded Weapon, Gunmen and this) he plays the same character, a fast talking wise-ass. Nothing new here then. Finally there is Bob Gunton as the police chief, George Earle who hovers in a perpetual state of apoplexy. Gunton is always good value, and doesn`t disappoint here.
There we have it, the comic book capers of Demolition Man. The film is some 110 minutes of mindless fun, but don`t expect any philosophy. Wesley Snipes makes a fun bad guy, with loads of silly quips. Stallone does the expected hero stuff and while there aren`t any belly laughs, you can expect to smirk at a few points. It`s a fun way to while away the hours so it gets a decent mark. The picture is abysmal but it could have been a letterbox transfer. The sound is good action movie quality, but the music sucks. Rent, don`t buy.