Los Angeles in the year 1996. Voilence and terror rule the streets and nothing and nobody is safe. Simon Pheonix is one the worst criminals that Los Angeles has seen. There is only one man who can stop him. L.A.P.D. officer John ''Demoltion Man'' Spartan. However, When John apprehended Pheonix, he was surprisingly an accessory to Pheonix's recent crime and was also sent to a new prison system called a ''Cryo Prison''. However, during John Spartan's sentence, Los Angeles' theme and society had dramatically change. The city became a society where everybody is peaceful, nice, kind, and understanding. Somehow, Simon Pheonix was let out of his iced prison and escaped from his parole hearing. now, Pheonix is using the Peaceful society that made Los Angles to his advantage and is destroying it. The Police tried to stop him with their non-violent solutions, but failed. Then, they have no choice but to let out John Spartan to stop Pheonix. Now, Spartan not only has to stop Pheonix, but to adapt himself to the future society he has no knowledge about.
Directed by: Marco Brambilla
. Starring: Sylvester Stallone
, Wesley Snipes
, Sandra Bullock
, Nigel Hawthorne
, Benjamin Bratt
, Bob Gunton
, Glenn Shadix
, Denis Leary
, Grand L. Bush
, Pat Skipper
, Steve Kahan
, Paul Bollen
, Mark Colson
. Music by: Elliot Goldenthal
The title would appear to say it all... let alone the poster. STALLONE! SNIPES! DEMOLITION MAN! It sounds about as subtle and entertaining as a sledgehammer to the head... only this film is much more than just two big action stars slugging it out. Demolition Man, lord knows how, somehow pulls off the very difficult trick of bringing several styles together: action, comedy, thrills, spills and even some philosophical debate! Yet none of these aspects of the movie are too raw or overdone. What we get is two action stars, one just entering his prime while this remains one of the other's few recent films of any worth, engaged in a typical cop vs bad guy movie, but one that doesn't ignore everything else in favour of these two characters.
Much of the credit for this lies with Sandra Bullock. Her friendly, ballsy prettiness, which is so often miscast as sexy female lead or hard nosed bitch, is perfect in this movie as the naive but spunky Lt Lenina Huxley, one of the few cops in modern day California with any desire to actually fight crime. Her fellow officers, all of whom seem brilliantly cast, regard her desire for action as almost offencive and openly say so, though in the future it seems that anything like a personnel character attack, such as mockery or sarcasm, have been ironed out.
This is because, in Demolition Man, the future is a happy place (ish)! The story concerns Stallone's John Spartan, a fairly rogue cop who takes down bad guys left, right and centre but does so with so many deaths and explosions, not to mention buildings destroyed, that he inherits the nickname Demolition Man. Spartan is a real movie alpha male, ignoring orders and making his own rules yet always getting the job done. So far so typical. When downtown LA, which has become a riotous hellhole by 1997 (a future date for the movie's real world opening), Spartan goes in to take out Wesley Snipe's Simon Phoenix, a psychotic killer who has taken a tour bus full of people hostage. Spartan goes in and gets Phoenix only, somewhat inevitably, the building is destroyed... however the hostages were apparently still inside.
Spartan is imprisoned in behavioural modifying cryogenic sleep (you're freezed and they change your brain's synaptic pathways while you're asleep) for 75 year, along with Phoenix, who goes in indefinitely (which suggests quite a high prison population given the hell that California was stuck in during the movie's opening!). However, prisoners still have occasional parole hearings. At one Phoenix escapes, having somehow learnt the verbal password to his cuffs along with numerous new skills and abilities. Quite how or why is unknown... He breaks out, killing numerous guards and the prison warden.
This is hugely problematic for the new San Angeles police force (the location being what's left of California after the Great Quake of the early 21st century) as they haven't had to deal with a murder for over 20 years! Their comically inept reaction to the emergence of a killer like Phoenix in their Utopian society is where a lot of the film's humour comes from and the writers turn a one joke movie into a hysterical two hours, particularly when Spartan is unfrozen to catch Phoenix. Stallone's fish out of water routine is skilfully handled, not least the hilarious moment when he can no longer stop himself from knitting Lenina a sweater thanks to the behavioural modification of his mind! It's a great joke and is not alone, particularly some of Bullock's one liners such as, on Spartan's seemingly aggressive ribbing of an aged colleague, 'That's how insecure heterosexual males talked to each other in the 20th century.' Gags like this, as well as the general quality of the writing and the bedrock concept of this movie, make it really worth watching.
Other than the three principle leads there is excellent support in Benjamin Bratt, Bill Cobbs, Bob Gunton, Dennis Leary and, perhaps most surprisingly, Nigel Hawthorne an English thespian who only took the role so that he'd be allowed the lead in the cinema version of the Madness of King George. Hawthorne, who sadly died in 2001, gives a brilliant turn as the seemingly benevolent mentor of San Angeles, delivering such lines as 'You are fined one-half credit for a sotto voce violation of the Verbal Morality Statute' with a grace and aplomb far in excess of what the movie must have read like, yet perfectly in keeping with the irreverent style.
Sadly, the greatness of this movie doesn't last forever. The plot makes sense but falls apart slightly when Phoenix's hidden master is revealed and turns out to have absolutely no clue how dangerous the man he sprung from prison is. Similarly, when Phoenix starts thawing out his mates they don't paint the sky red like you'd expect... their involvement being peripheral at best with some quite recognisable actors given little more than expendable henchman roles. The final fight is pretty off key as well and doesn't really do the tension Stallone and Snipes generate much justice, although it does involve some pretty nifty effects given the year this was made.
However, all in all Demolition Man is something of a gem of an action movie, involving a clever premise intelligently handled and with some great lines delivered by actors who are on form. It doesn't dip much and is a very satisfying couple of hours, complete with all the prerequisites of a futuristic action movie (guns, explosions, love interest and so forth), with a lot more than I was expecting having just watched it again for the first time in years (such as great lines, good acting and excellent pacing). Overall I highly recommend this film, particularly if you've seen it before and only vaguely remember it as another so-so action film.
Review by james_norman1981 from the Internet Movie Database.