Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Stupid Films That I Love - Demolition Man

The next film in the stupid but great collection is Stallone’s 1993 opus, Demolition Man. It stars Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock, Denis Leary, Rob Schneider, and erm, Nigel Hawthorne. Bit of backstory here, I actually won a local newspaper competition to see this movie when I was 15. I won a pair of tickets and a Demolition Man beret. Yes, a beret. I never did summon up the courage to wear the beret in public as I was too busy wearing my military deerstalker (with Judge Dredd badge stuck on one side, fashion fans!). So there is some nostalgic value to this film, not a great deal, it’s not like I placed the beret in a special display cabinet or dedicated 1993 as the year of the Demolition Man beret and Simon Phoenix haircut.

Talk of berets aside, Demolition Man is the story of supercop John Spartan and his feud with criminal Simon Phoenix (got to love the over the top character names, they’ve been a big influence when choosing names for my own fictional creations). The movie starts in the near future (now the recent past to us) as Los Angeles has become a war zone due to gang warfare. Simon Phoenix (played by Wesley Snipes) is a super criminal whose amazing plan seems to be kidnapping school buses and ransoming them off. Having watched The Wire, I’m not convinced that Phoenix’s business model is sustainable in the long term, I mean stealing a school bus is something you could only pull off a couple of times surely? John Spartan doesn’t approve of kidnapping school kids so he decides to singlehandedly infiltrate Phoenix ’s lair and bring him to justice.

Spartan’s plan doesn’t go well and it ends with both him and Phoenix sentenced to several decades of cryogenic jail time. Decades later Phoenix and Spartan are thawed out to continue their feud in a more civilised and sterilised future age. Wacky hi-jinks ensue as the two men from the past use brutal methods unseen by the peaceful future inhabitants of San Angeles.

This is a culture shock movie with lashings of comedy violence, it’s actually quite dark in places but you’re never shown anything explicitly nasty directly on screen. The film has a pretty decent cast for a mainstream comedy action movie, Wesley Snipes is great fun as Phoenix as he clearly delights in his crimes. Stallone as Spartan is pretty much playing the clichéd maverick cop who DOESN’T HAVE TIME FOR RULES DAMMIT but uses his charisma to make it work. Sandra Bullock appears in one of her early main character roles in a big budget movie and she does her usual job of being the sexy girl/future cop next door. Rob Schneider is well, Rob Schneider. I assume his performance in this movie is why he was cast as comedy sidekick Fergie in the Judge Dredd film a couple of years later. Oh yeah, Jesse Ventura is in it too!

Demolition Man is an inoffensive movie with a simple message about corruption in paradise and a warning about over reliance on technology. One of my favourite ongoing jokes is the constant fines levied by a faceless but omnipresent computer whenever John Spartan swears. It’s not ground breaking but it is a lot of fun, the action sequences are well done and quite imaginative in places and the future world is well realised, if pretty silly. This is a stupid but endearing action movie that obviously won’t tax the brain but will leave you entertained.

Here's the trailer:

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