Saturday, September 25, 2010

Film Review: DEMOLITION MAN (1993, Marco Brambilla)

Stars: 3.75 of 5.
Running Time: 115 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt, Glenn Shadix (BEETLEJUICE, SLEEPWALKERS), Denis Leary (TRUE CRIME, RESCUE ME), Nigel Hawthorne (GANDHI, FIREFOX), Andre Gregory (MY DINNER WITH ANDRE, THE LINGUINI INCIDENT), Troy Evans (THE LAWNMOWER MAN, UNDER SIEGE, ER), Bob Gunton (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, JFK). Bit parts by Jack Black and Jesse Ventura. Music by Elliot Goldenthal (HEAT, PUBLIC ENEMIES), cinematography by Alex Thomson (THE KEEP, LABYRINTH, EXECUTIVE DECISION), editing by Stuart Baird (director of EXECUTIVE DECISION, editor of SUPERMAN and LETHAL WEAPON), Directed by Marco Brambilla (DINOTOPIA, EXCESS BAGGAGE).
Tag-line: "In the year 2032, Simon Phoenix escapes from prison, on the verge of bringing crime to San Angeles. One man is called back to duty as a last resort. They call him... THE DEMOLITION MAN."
Best one-liner: "You're gonna regret this the rest of your life... both seconds of it!"

Picture this possibly fictitious scenario. It's Los Angeles in 1991. Sylvester Stallone broods in the flickering darkness of a movie theater screening TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY. Perhaps a single tear rolls down his cheek. Like Salieri, he knows that he can never adequately respond to this latest salvo in the Schwarzenegger/Stallone rivalry. But somewhere in the back of his mind, he thinks that if he could just have his own 'man waking up naked in a time that is not his own to fight an epically demonic foe' movie, maybe he could show the world that Stallone is not going down without a fight.

Two years later, we have DEMOLITION MAN. It does not approach the heights of T2, but what we have here is a frivolous but quotable action flick from the screenwriter of HEATHERS. (And the commentary on the futuristic "utopia," even when it reaches cornball levels, is always entertaining.)

There's a lot going on here:

Wesley Snipes is about as psychotically entertaining as a villain can be, despite the fact that his wardrobe looks culled from the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLE movie.

Does that belong to Bebop? Perhaps Rocksteady?

(Jesse Ventura even gets in on the action. In a henchman's role which apparently possesses greater depth in the novelization.)

Denis Leary as a shaggy resistance member:

Bob Gunton playing a character which can only be referred to as the 'poor man's Donald Pleasence':

Glenn Shadix (R.I.P.) with a shock of white hair, a kimono, and that patented smarmy attitude which won the hearts and minds of everyone from HEATHERS and BEETLEJUICE fans to Tennessee Williams himself (!).

Greenhorn actor Andre Gregory is afforded the enviable opportunity to share some screen-time with Wesley Snipes:

And we're entreated to many fantastic tableaux of Snipes firing lasers, machine guns, etc. and Stallone diving for cover with that profound- yet familiar- expression etched upon his rubbery face.


And, as far as the weirdly prescient references go in Stallone vs. Schwarzenegger movies, there are some odd ones here: "Scott Peterson" appears as a name in the criminal database years before his infamy, and there is a reference to the "Arnold Schwarzenegger Presidential Library" and the 61st Amendment which made his presidency possible. An ominous portent of things to come? (Schwarzenegger himself seeks presently to overturn the constitutional clause that would prevent foreign-born nationals from becoming president...)

I'm unsure what more you could even hope to get out of DEMOLITION MAN. Nearly four stars.

-Sean Gill


GuyR said...

"Schwarzenegger himself seeks presently to overturn the constitutional clause that would prevent foreign-born nationals from becoming president..."

What? Are you serious?
Have you seen The Expendables, by the way?

Unknown said...

Wasn't Sandra Bullock in this one, too? I do recall enjoying this in my youth if only for all of the wanton destruction on screen and for Wesley Snipes clearly enjoying the hell out of playing a larger than life baddie.

Sean Gill said...


There's a great many articles in that same vein across the internet, too. And yes, I saw THE EXPENDABLES, and yes, I loved it. Yourself?


Yep Oscar-Winner Sandra B is in this one, and she's a surprisingly alright foil to Sly's beefy stoicism. Wesley Snipes is enjoying the hell out of the role, and by extension every viewer ought to be, too!

Demolition said...

In real life, there is no demolition man, though I wish there is, but there is no choice. Gladly there are professionals who can help us with our demolition needs.

Anonymous said...

1993 was a good year for Stallone. Arguably his best single year. This and the even greater CLIFFHANGER were both released to critical and commercial acclaim.

Anonymous said...

I should have mentioned that was probably the only time he was adequately ahead of Schwarzenegger in their friendly rivalry. Arnie was starring in the less-than-reputable LAST ACTION HERO which I didn't think was THAT bad, but nevertheless.

Of course, Arnie would come roaring back in 1994 with TRUE LIES. Arnie pretty much stomped Stallone in that rivalry. But hey, at least Stallone had the fortune of NOT being able to say that he starred in BATMAN AND ROBIN in 1997 and, instead, proved himself in COP LAND. Forget all the political issues and personal problems, B&R is the real fucking travesty that Arnold needs to apologize and be held accountable for. Arnie, I love ya, but that movie will always be a dark stain on your otherwise storied career.

Sean Gill said...


I appreciate your thoughts.


You're very right in terms of the ebb and flow of Schwarzie/Stallone dominance. Also, COP LAND is very dear to my heart– possibly the zenith of Stallone artistry (as opposed to the zenith of Stallone arm wrestling/one-liners/mastering the three sea shells, etc).

Unknown said...

There is a scene cut out When Sylvester Stallone fights Jesse Ventura in Demolition Man. It's supposed to be before the final battle against Wesley Snipes when there's the first batch of new cryo-con henchmen. Someone said on a post they were slugging it out showing footage of the movie going into commercial break. Manly movie says that the Sly Stallone character takes down the Jesse Ventura character with a running tackle. It's disappointing not to see them fight each other. The novelization it's 5 of the 6 cryocons shown killed and not resolving the fate of the character played by Jesse Ventura.

Sean Gill said...


I had no idea––thanks for sharing!