Demolition Man

Year: 1993

Production: Warner Bros.

Director: Mario Brambilla

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock, Nigel Hawthorne, Benjamin Bratt, Bob Gunton, Glenn Shadix, Denis Leary, Grand L. Bush

Screenwriter: Daniel Waters, Robert Reneau, Peter M. Lenkov, Jonathan Lemkin

Based on a story by Robert Reneau and Peter M. Lenkov

115 minutes; Color


Joel Silver's commitment to explosions and wisecracking action heroes suggests he may well remain King of the No Brain Movie until the 21st century. That said, although his films never threaten to pack heavy intellectual firepower, a thread of wry, sly, self-parodic cleverness runs through his work. Accordingly while Demolition Man blows up enough things to keep the video generation off the fast-forward button, it also elaborates on the knowingness of Die Hard (1988) and Road House (1989). Moreover it manages to get away with the jokiness that doomed Silver's Hudson Hawk (1991) and the non-Silver Last Action Hero (1993) to megaturkey status. For the first time in a decade, a Stallone film edged past Arnie in the hipness stakes, pulling off a joke about President Schwarzenegger which pays back Last Action Hero's alternate-world gag casting of Stallone in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Stallone does a better job of being funny than in his conventional comedies (Oscar [1991], Stop! or My Mom Will Shot [1992]) but still gets to bungee-jump with a machine-gun into a blazing riot.

The plot is a variation on a theme that dates back to Buck Rogers (1939), but is merely an excuse to pit Sly against a lighyly-caricatured pastel future. Cryo-imprisoned 1990s steroid supercop John Spartan (Stallone) is revived in an idyllic but oppressive future to track down his old enemy, psychopath Simon Phoenix (Snipes). Stallone must save the city of San Angeles from old-style terrorism by applying equally old-fashioned heroic ultra-violence. Hardly a serious attempt at social prophecy, this is a rare effort to get away from the now-cliche urban hells of Blade Runner (1982) or The Terminator (1984) and come up with an open air mall, PC-dominated alternative vision of the future. The fight scenes are interspersed with genuinely clever jokes about action movies and California triviality: a Golden Oldies station replays 1990s ad jingles, irritatingly omnipresent swear boxes chide 20th-century barbarians for their non-PC/non-PG language, the brainwashing rehabilitation process unlooses Stallone from cryo-sleep as an expert knitter and Leary's rebel leader advocates meat-eating and chain-smoking.

If the action is not quite as well handled by debuting pop video man Brambilla as it might be if James Cameron or John McTierman were holding the megaphone, it still delivers enough carnage and property damage to pass as a multiplex picture. But it's the skewed, imaginative, sick comedy worldview - courtesy of Hudson Hawk scripter Waters - that gives it distinction.

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia - Science Fiction

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