A cop is brought out of suspended animation in prison to pursue an old ultra-violent enemy who is loose in a nonviolent future society.
Release Year: 1993
Rating: 6.4/10 (60,859 voted)
Critic's Score: 34/100
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock
Frozen in 1996, Phoenix, a convicted killer is "thawed" out for parole well into the 21st century. Revived into a crime free society, Phoenix resumes his murderous rampage, and no one can stop him. Spartan, the cop who captured Phoenix in 1996 has also been cryogenically frozen, this time for a crime he didn't commit. In desperation they turn to Spartan to help recapture Phoenix.
Writers: Peter M. Lenkov, Robert Reneau
Dr. Raymond Cocteau
Chief George Earle
Grand L. Bush
Zachary Lamb – Young
Warden William Smithers – Young
Warden William Smithers – Aged
John Enos III
The 21st Century's most dangerous cop. The 21st Century's most ruthless criminal.
Release Date: 8 October 1993
Filming Locations: 105 Freeway, Los Angeles, California, USA
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $14,200,000
Did You Know?
Sylvester Stallone wanted the Simon Phoenix character to be played by Jackie Chan. Chan refused, since Asian audiences don't like the idea of actors who have always played heroes suddenly playing evil characters.
Crew or equipment visible:
Just after the building collapses due to the massive explosion at the beginning of the film, several crew members can be heard clapping and yelling.
I was wondering if you would like to have sex?
Here? With you? Now?
Excellent cultural satire
John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) is a reckless Los Angeles policeman,
known as the "demolition man" for the destruction he routinely
engenders while apprehending big baddies. After a particularly ruthless
criminal, Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes), sets him up by making it
appear that Spartan wantonly caused the deaths of a bus load of
hostages, Spartan is sentenced to 60 years or so in prison. The film
begins in a not-too-distant future (relative to its 1992/1993
production date) of 1996. Prisons are quite a bit different, and
there's a new policy of cryogenically freezing inmates. We cut forward
to 2032. Phoenix is up for an obligatory parole hearing when he
escapes. The film's 21st Century society is extremely different
(worsening cultural chaos, exacerbated by a huge earthquake,
precipitated the change), and the "San Angeles" police cannot capture
Phoenix or keep him in check. Chief Earle makes a decision to revive
Spartan, reasoning that an out of control but effective cop mired in
the ways of the late 20th Century may be the only one who can capture
the out of control criminal, but he, and the future society, may be in
for a lot more than they bargained for by reawakening the Demolition
Demolition Man is one of the funniest, most action-packed and most
poignant social satires of at least the last 30 years. It's not
necessarily the easiest film to appreciate, as it makes its points
through extremely over-the-top "mindless" action and tongue-in-cheek,
purposefully cheesy plot and dialogue, but it's well worth trying to
acclimate oneself to the style if you're not an action or sci-fi fan,
as the satire cuts deep. There are other films with somewhat similar
aims, such as Total Recall (1990) and Starship Troopers (1997), which
are perhaps just as good as Demolition Man, but they certainly can't
top it, and they have aims other than the purely satirical.
The opening scene feels like a typical late 1980s/early 1990s action
sequence. At least until we realize that there's not going to be a
happy ending for the hostages that Spartan is trying to save. Once we
arrive at the future, a lot of viewers might misjudge the performances
of the principal cast besides Stallone and Snipes. Sandra Bullock, as
Lieutenant Lenina Huxley (a reference to Aldous Huxley's book Brave New
World), and Benjamin Bratt, as Alfredo Garcia (a reference to Sam
Peckinpah's 1974 film, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia), at first
seem to be turning in bizarrely incompetent performances. It's only
later that we realize they are spot on for the film's "brave new
world", which is basically an instantiation of a staunchly moralist
cult run by Dr. Raymond Cocteau (a reference to famed director Jean
Cocteau combined with Cocteau's friend, novelist Raymond Radiguet).
Technically, the film is quite impressive. The production design,
cinematography, effects, staging of the action sequences, score and
soundtrack are excellent. But what sets Demolition Man a cut above the
rest are the script and the performances–yes, even from Stallone and
Snipes, although Bullock, and especially Denis Leary, in a relatively
minor part where he gets to do his motor-mouthed, ranting comedy
schtick that made him famous, both threaten to steal the show.
Director Marco Brambilla (who has remained oddly inactive since
Demolition Man, which was his first film) and his writing "team" skewer
a lot of cultural norms as relatively arbitrary conventions. Radio and
television commercial jingles are considered the pinnacle of musical
art in the film's world. Strict morality is enforced through constant
computer monitoring of behavior combined with fines–a running joke
throughout the film is that profanity results in fines. Meat and
alcohol have been outlawed. So has physical contact, including sex. All
restaurants are now Taco Bells (in some cuts of the film intended for
foreign markets, this was changed to Pizza Hut instead). There is an
underground, outside of the cultic mainstream society, but they're
literally underground, living relatively lawless (well, at least they
eat meat and drink beers) in tunnels strewn with utility pipes.
As a result, serious crime is a thing of the past, swept under the rug
(or into the sewers) and labeled with Orwellian newspeak. Phoenix and
Spartan's reintroduction of violence and mayhem, including
"murder/death/kill", results in a reawakening of cultural freedom,
analogous to their own thawing out. The anti-utopian, anti-utilitarian
political message, like that of Orwell's 1984 and later films
influenced by the same, such as Equilibrium (2002), couldn't be
clearer. And the message can be extended to situations that are not
political. I didn't use "cult" above carelessly. The idea is that the
society's warts are necessary for individual authenticity. Yes, things
can run smoother under a dictatorship, but who wants to live under a
dictatorship, even a supposedly "benevolent" one?