a critiQal film review Demolition Man (1993)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: It's the year 2023, and people have embraced a nonviolent culture. So, when maniacal killer Simon Phoenix (Snipes) escapes from a cryogenic prison, they are unable to deal with his brand of violence. Their only hope: release John Spartan (Stallone), a notorious cop - nicknamed "the demolition man" - who has been wrongly imprisoned in the same cryogenic prison for over 30 years.

699 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 29s)
  • ...although it's mainly a testosterone-fueled Stallone vs. Snipes action pic, a surprising amount of humor keeps this popcorn flick from getting too stale even now.

Since I’m a big sci-fi/action fan, summer’s my prime season – I just can’t get enough of the blockbuster movies. While the critics normally bash on all the summer movies (since they can’t seem to enjoy summer films for the spectacular escapism vehicles they are), I’ve been enjoying the ones we’ve ventured out to see – including the latest, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009). But, despite enjoying the new films, I’ve also gotten a bit nostalgic for action films that centered around one muscle-bound dude beating the crap out of another, without the help of all this new-fangled CGI. You know, the films where the audience chuckled when they catch a glimpse of the stunt double or a not-quite-realistic enough prop – yet still managed a collective gasp when the characters go for broke in a death-defying stunt. Just like Demolition Man.

Of course, when talking about films like that, a few names come immediately to mind: Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, these two were the tops of the action hero genre, and delivered one solid action-packed film after another. Sure, critics scoffed at the cheesy one-liners and ridiculous scenarios, but fans ate it up with relish.

Such is the case with Demolition Man. An action film with a sci-fi bent, the film stars Stallone as the action hero, battling through (literally) all obstacles against his foe, a wildly maniacal Wesley Snipes. Stallone does a decent job of mixing in humor in his heavy accent while still blasting away in his over-muscled way, and Snipes is even more fun as a typical “evil and loving it” villain.

However, the familiar faces don’t stop with those two. Sandra Bullock and Denis Leary are also along for the ride, as a cop and a anti-establishment leader, respectively – even serious actor Nigel Hawthorne puts in an appearance, portraying the leader of the new establishment.

Bullock delivers most of the laughs, as she flubs her way through some familiar phrases (“take this job and shovel it” is one of the cleaner ones) while singing along with commercials (called “mini-tunes” in this future) for Armour hot dogs and the like. She’s a delight in the film, although she does occasionally get unceremoniously shoved to the side in favor of the Stallone/Snipes sequences.

Denis Leary works well as a leader of the underground, as his anti-establishment character allows him to rant and rave just like he did in his stand-up act. True, it’s a far cry from his current work in “Rescue Me” (TV), but it’s still decently – if only rather briefly – enjoyable.

While the set-up of Demolition Man (a future peaceful society) is obviously there just to showcase the brutality and violent nature of the Stallone/Snipes battles, it still turns in quite a few comical moments. From Stallone’s awkward attempts to fit into this new society to cops standing around in shock as Snipes’ Phoenix first makes his presence known in this society, these sequences lead to the most laughs. It, of course, also does it’s job showcasing the violence of Stallone/Snipes sequences, but the comical differences between that society and our own are almost as enjoyable.

True, Demolition Man is a bit more straightforward than the films of today – viewers will never get lost going from point A to point B in this film. But, that’s almost refreshing every once in awhile, if done correctly. With it’s wisecracks and testosterone-fueled hero vs. villain battles, it’s fun to revisit even now, more than a decade after it’s release. Sure, some of the special effects aren’t exactly up to par – but even that seems to oddly add to the enjoyment of the film.

For nearly two hours, viewers will be able to forget about the complexities of life these days and re-visit a simpler time with Demolition Man: a time where everyday CGI use was a mere fantasy, one muscle-bound hero could take on an army and trounce them on a regular basis – all while still managing to deliver a few choice (and yes, at least slightly cheesy) one-liners – and viewers fell over themselves to be the first to see it.

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