Sunday, October 05, 2014

Demolition Man

Directed by Marco Brambilla and screenplay by Daniel Waters, Peter Reneau, and Peter M. Lenkov from a story by Reneau and Lenkov, Demolition Man is the story a cop from the 1990s who is cryogenically frozen for 36 years as he is reinstated to go after an old foe who was also cryogenically frozen in a futuristic society. The film plays into the aspects of utopia and dystopia where a cop and a criminal from the 20th Century deal with the new rules of the new world as a cop gets the aide of a 20th Century-loving officer. Starring Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock, Nigel Hawthorne, Benjamin Bratt, Denis Leary, Rob Schneider, and Bob Gunton. Demolition Man is a silly but very exhilarating film from Marco Brambilla.

Set in 2032 in a futuristic city called San Angeles that combined three Californian cities in the aftermath of an earthquake, the film explores a utopia that becomes disrupted by cryogenically frozen criminal who escapes as he is ordered to kill a rebel leader prompting the police force to revive his cryogenically frozen foe in a former cop. While it’s a film with a simple plot that does take many of the dystopian ideas of Aldous Huxley, it’s a film that not only pokes fun at the idea of utopia but also how flawed it can be. The film’s screenplay not only create this utopian world where there’s little-to-no violence as well as no anti-social behavior or anything that can harm humanity. It also creates this world where there’s no usage of profanity, no sex, no touching skin, no smoking, no eating red meat, no vices, and there’s no toilet paper where people have to use three seashells in case they wanted to take a shit. Essentially, it’s a fucked up world where everyone acts like a bunch of pussies.

The protagonist in John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) and the antagonist in Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) are two men who were part of a world that is very violent and destructive where Spartan’s actions to capture Phoenix led to the death of many hostages that Spartan was supposed to save. The disgraced Spartan and the already-dangerous Phoenix were forced to take part in an experiment where they’re both cryogenically frozen for 36 years until Phoenix in a parole hearing escapes. Phoenix’s actions in San Angeles which allowed him increased programming to hack into computers and do more than he already knew makes him a viable threat to the city. Especially where the police force reluctantly revive Spartan to capture Phoenix as Spartan would have trouble adjusting to his new world and the family that he had lost.

While Spartan is seen by many in the future as this brutish caveman, his new partner in Lenina Huxley (Sandra Bullock) is a woman fascinated by the past as she learns about Spartan’s actions while telling him the rules of the new world. Leading this idea of a utopia is San Angeles’ leader Dr. Raymond Cocteau (Nigel Hawthorne) who has a very warped view about how society should live where his ideals are being threatened by a rebel leader in Edgar Friendly (Denis Leary) who lives under the city with a bunch of people who refuse to live under Cocteau’s rules despite the risk of starvation. Once Spartan realizes what Cocteau is about and how Phoenix is being used to carry Cocteau’s plan to kill Friendly. It becomes not just more complex but also filled with this concept that there is no such thing as a perfect society where even the deranged sociopath in Phoenix even questions Cocteau’s own ideas. It’s the script’s willingness to ask the big questions while putting enough humor that is among the key strengths of the film.

Marco Brambilla’s direction is pretty typical of the action-blockbusters in terms of approach to extravagant action sequences as well as some stylish approach to fights and gunplay. Yet, Brambilla does know how to slow the film in order to explore this idea of utopian San Angeles and how pacifism can lead to this idea that there is no bad in the world. Much of Brambilla’s compositions in these light-hearted moments are very simple in terms of its close-ups and medium shots in the way he plays out the drama. In his approach to humor, it is also light-hearted with some very offbeat references such as Spartan discovering that Arnold Schwarzenegger was President of the United States despite not being a natural-born American.

There’s also elements of style such as a weird sex scene between Spartan and Huxley which involves virtual reality since actual sex is forbidden. The action scenes are pretty intense with lots of explosions and fighting as Brambilla knows how to keep things engaging without losing insight into what is at stake. Even as it can get over the top at times while mixing it with some offbeat humor. Overall, Brambilla creates a very enjoyable yet intelligent film about two men from the 1990s who are reawaken in a futuristic utopia gone wrong.

Cinematographer Alex Thomson does amazing work with the film‘s cinematography from the stylish and mesmerizing look of San Angeles in day and night to the look of the grimy underground with its low-key lights. Editor Stuart Baird does excellent work in creating a very straightforward style in the humor and drama while putting in some stylish jump-cuts and fast-cuts for the action scenes. Production designer David L. Snyder, with art director Walter P. Marthishius and set decorators Robert Gould and Etta Leff, does fantastic work with the set pieces from the futuristic look of San Angeles from its museums, police station, and its Taco Bell restaurant.

Costume designer Bob Ringwood does superb work with the costumes from some of the futuristic clothing the characters wear that includes the dress that Huxley wears at Taco Bell. Visual effects supervisor John C. Wash does nice work with some of the film‘s visual effects such as phaser gun bullets and other futuristic objects that Phoenix would use. Sound designers Michael Geisler, William Griggs, Sam Horta, and Kevin Spears, with sound editor Robert G. Henderson, do terrific work with the sound from some of the layers of sounds in the action sequences to the stun baton that the police uses. The film’s music by Elliot Goldenthal is pretty good for its orchestral bombast that plays into the action and humor while the soundtrack features an array of jingles that serves as the oldies radio station plus a re-worked version of the Police song Demolition Man by its front man Sting.

The casting by Ferne Cassel and Joy Todd is incredible as it feature some cameo appearances from MTV host Dan Cortese as a Taco Bell lounge pianist, Jack Black as one of Denis Leary’s gang members, Rob Schneider as a humorous police receptionist, Andre Gregory as an older version of the cryo-prison warden, Brandy Ledford as the naked video girl that Spartan sees, and Jesse “The Body” Ventura as an associate of Phoenix. Other notable small roles include Glen Shadix as Dr. Cocteau’s aide Associate Bob, Bill Cobbs as an old cop who knows Spartan who suggested that Spartan should go after Phoenix, Benjamin Bratt as the content but violence-phobia officer Alfredo Garcia, and Bob Gunton in a superb performance as the police chief George Earle who despises Spartan’s brutish tactics. Denis Leary is excellent as the rebel leader Edgar Friendly who opposes Dr. Cocteau’s ideas of utopia as he is just trying to get food for the people as Leary has this very funny rant about how he wants to live.

Nigel Hawthorne is amazing as Dr. Raymond Cocteau as this city leader who wants to create his own idea of society as he is described an evil version of Mr. Rogers. Sandra Bullock is fantastic as Lieutenant Lenina Huxley as this young cop who is eager for action as Bullock brings a charm that is fun to watch as well as some funny moments where she tries to say some puns to impress Spartan. Wesley Snipes is phenomenal as Simon Phoenix as this offbeat villain who says some amazing puns as well as being very diabolical as it’s one of Snipes’ finest performances. Finally, there’s Sylvester Stallone in a marvelous performance as John Spartan as Stallone brings that sense of tough guy attitude to his role with some humor that allows him to be overwhelmed and the butt of jokes as it’s one of his more underrated performances that has him be cool and funny.

Demolition Man is a spectacularly off-the-wall and entertaining film from Marco Brambilla that features great performances from Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes. Along with a great supporting cast led by Sandra Bullock as well as very engaging themes on utopia, it’s a film that has enough entertainment value for fans of action films but it’s also very funny and has some unique satire that makes it a cut above most action sci-fi films. In the end, Demolition Man is one absolutely ass-kicking film from Marco Brambilla.

© thevoid99 2014


ruth said...

I love that you have reviews for Truffaut but also for popcorn action stuff like this one! I saw this w/ my brother years ago on the big screen and had a good time w/ it. I LOVE Wesley Snipes, I hope he'll get more work again. Sandra Bullock was memorable here as well. She's moved on to um, more serious projects but clearly Sly hasn't, ha..ha..

thevoid99 said...

That is true. It's a film I love to watch and it's got some hilarious one-liners as well as moments that make you wish you would die instantly instead of living in a future where you can't do the things that make you happy. No sex, no red meat, no cursing? Fuck that!!!!

Dell said...

Such cheesy fun, this one is. Wesley Snipes completely owns this movie. And yeah, ever since I saw it in a theater so many years ago, I've been trying to figure out how the three seashells work.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell Ottley-They never answered that. How do those fucking three seashells work?