I’ve seen this film countless times but always as entertainment, never looking at the film as I do now as a reviewer. I've always tried to avoid studying the films I watch as I feel it takes away the enjoyment of watching a movie, but like I said, as I’ve seen this film, in an 'entertainment' capacity so many times, I’ve decided that now I can look into how it was made, written, acted and constructed and why this process of film making has always entertained me. Demolition Man is that film and to be honest I’d never really realised how insane this film was.
For those who have never had the pleasure of seeing this, here's a quick breakdown of the plot. 1999, John Spartan is a hardcore law enforcer, he bends the rules to capture criminals, even if that mean bending them so much that he breaks them. His actions usually end with some sort of total destruction, earning him the moniker, The Demolition Man. Spartan is hunting the evil psychotic criminal, Simon Phoenix. After many hostages die during the apprehension of Phoenix, Spartan is sentenced along with Phoenix, to 70 years in a Cryo-Prison. 36 years later Phoenix is released early with the instruction to kill a man named Edgar Friendly. Simon Phoenix begins to leave a trail of bodies in his pursuit of Friendly and the police are powerless to stop him in the non violent future. They need an old school cop to catch and old school criminal...seems they have one....SPARTAN.
Being a Stallone vehicle he gets to do his muscular magic in a role that was tailor made for him. Spartan is very much like prototype Judge Dredd, but less by the book, even if Spartan is a more well rounded and developed character than Dredd. Spartan is a hardcore law enforcer and acts as much as the criminal as the people he's chasing. It's a fish out of water character for Sly as he has to get to grips with life in the 'future' where everything bad for you is illegal so there's no Beer, Cigarettes, red meat, etc...All the luxuries of the 20th century which he took for granted are no outlawed and we watch as Spartan tries to comprehend this. But it's not just about how he deals with losing all his favourite things though, it's about Stallone's performance. Now people have always debated on whether Stallone is a good actor or not. Sure the man has made some utter trash in his career, Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot and Oscar being the pinnacle of his career and after the career killing remake of Get Carter and Driven, it's amazing that this man made a comeback as big as he did. Much like Mickey Rourke, who's career returned after brilliantly portraying a washed up wrestler, Stallone managed it a year before him reprising his role as Rocky Balboa in the 6th film in the series that was bigger than he thought it would have been. The role of Spartan gives him an opportunity to play with comedy in a script that's not only very clever but also well written in which the comedy works with the Michael Bay style action set pieces. Stallone's delivery is spot on. I would rate this up there with the best of his performances that include the obvious Rocky film and Lock Up during the 80s and early 90s part of his career.
The film however, belongs to Wesley Snipes. His performance is absolutely incredible, it's demented, psychotic and very very funny. My problem with Snipes is that he's a hard actor to like, he makes some truly great films with expert performances like New Jack City, White Men Can't Jump and this film, but he also makes Euro trash actioners like 7 Seconds, The Corrupter and The Marksman where his performances are one note throughout. In regards to the Blade films, excluding the abysmal third film, he's a mixture of bad acting and good acting. Here though, it's the latter, he is brilliant.
Sandra Bullock also shows her skills at comedy in the role of Lenina Huxley, the passionate cop with an obsession with the 20th century. Bullock's comic timing is great and she has a constant smile on her face. It's no surprise that she became a big star after this because he next studio picture was just a year later with Speed.
The rest of the cast is rounded out with well known faces such as Bob Gunton, Nigel Hawthorn, Benjamin Bratt, Rob Schneider (who worked with Sly again 2 years later in Judge Dredd) and Dennis Leary who turns up and does his whole 'I want' comedy act that he does in almost everything he appears in.
Marco Brambilla shows considerable flair as an action director and for his first film he's given $57million to play with, and it's all there on screen from the huge explosive opening to the film's final showdown between Stallone and Snipes. Brambilla has only two feature film credits to his name, Demolition Man and the awful Excess Baggage, he helmed all three episodes of Dinotopia and randomly helmed on of the segments of art/porn hybrid Destricted and he's done nothing else since. But he had so much potential that it's a shame that's he's not done anything since. The action scenes aren't just relegated to the opening ten minutes though, the action is near relentless throughout the film's 115minute run time and takes in everything from the well staged Museum shoot out, the fights outside Taco Bell, the gun fight underground, a car chase and the finale which are handled brilliantly.
Overall, Demolition Man is a balls out sci-fi action extravaganza from start to finish with a clever script that brings out fine performances from the leads which includes a plethora of pop cultural references. The action scenes alone are enough to put Michael Bay to shame and they keep the film moving at a tremendous pace. If you want a film film to entertain you then you should definitely go with this. I love this film and I highly recommend it.