1993, R, 115 min. Directed by Marco Brambilla. Starring Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock, Nigel Hawthorne, Denis Leary.
REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., Oct. 15, 1993
By the year 2036, human society has become very submissive and super-polite. With no criminal element, the police merely have to be stern to get their way. At least that's the way it is in San Angeles, the surviving Californian mega-city after the great earthquake of 25 years earlier. This society -- and any world outside this city is not even hinted at -- is ruled by the obviously way-too-sweet Dr. Cocteau. The great benefactor, having led everyone out of the chaos after the earthquake, seems to totally have his way. Anything that isn't good for you is illegal: beef, booze, cigarettes, sex, even cursing. This isn't supposed to be a real world, it's a conceptual backdrop, a perfect Hollywood pitch -- “The peaceful world of the future, totally passive, we drop in Snipes as the criminal and Stallone as the police and they blow everything up. What a great film idea.” When psycho criminal Simon Phoenix (Snipes) is accidentally released from cryogenic suspended animation, he's the only violent force in this too-passive world. Soon, he has gone completely amok and can't be stopped. They decide their only hope is to unfreeze his 20th century nemesis, John Spartan (Stallone). As with the great comic books of the late Thirties and early Forties, this is about a titanic struggle between two relatively simplistic characters easily labeled as good and evil. What makes these stories interesting are the characters -- and they are both good. Snipes is especially fun as an over-the-edge psycho with no particular direction home. Known as the Demolition Man, because of his tendency to blow up buildings in the course of duty, Stallone's Slaughter doesn't disappoint as he blows up much of this new world. Stallone's narcissism gets in the way and we're forced to admire his body too much, but mostly this is fun. The script is fueled by genuine wit, everyone turns in fine performances and, beginning to end, the film actually shows some thought, if little originality. Let's not get carried away here: we're saying that for a soulless, unimaginative film that must have cost $50 million to make, Demolition Man, if you don't really think about it, isn't a bad ride.