Cult Movie: Demolition Man offers explosively entertaining 1990s action nonsense with Stallone and Snipes

Sylvester Stallone in 1993's Demolition Man
Ralph McLean

Demolition Man

A GLOBAL pandemic can lead a man to make some curious viewing decisions. Just the other night I found myself re-watching Demolition Man and, wait for it, actually enjoying it immensely.

I say that with a note of bemusement because I remember seeing director Marco Brambilla's debut feature when it made its cinema debut back in 1993 and thinking it was a pile of plastic, out dated, self-referential myth making of the highest order.

Viewed a full 28 years later and those exact same attributes are what appeal about it. It's the film's utter silliness that makes it special and the knowing sci-fi film's friendly nods and winks are now lovable where once they were insufferable.

Wesley Snipes is a crazed criminal Simon Phoenix – known as the 'Demolition Man' for his habit of blowing up huge buildings for fun – and Sly Stallone a top cop, who are cryogenically frozen together in the aftermath of the battles that have torn LA apart in 1996.

As the muscle-bound John Spartan, Sly finds himself frozen alongside the manic Snipes to ensure that, should public enemy number one ever escape, he'll be there to slap him right back in line.

Flash forward to 2032 and that inevitable escape happens, but the world that the two adversaries find themselves faced with bares little resemblance to the one they left. Overseen by the creepy Dr Cocteau (Nigel Hawthorne) society is now a peace-loving, law-abiding Utopia where sex and drugs and rock and roll are outlawed. Even a casual curse word in public will see you electronically fined on the spot.

It all seems too 'goody two shoes' to be true and, sure enough, that's exactly the problem: story-wise, the 'peace-loving society' stuff is a fraud to cover for your usual 'megalomaniac hell-bent on world domination' nonsense, which Hawthorne carries off pretty effectively.

Stallone and Snipes are on fire throughout, with the hot-wired Snipes ripping up the gaudy futuristic scenery like a man possessed as the bleach blonde killer and Stallone grumping around, acting all alpha male as the old-school cop who must stop him at all costs.

The effects are very 90s and wonky at times, the satire wildly over-played and the acting often over-cooked, but there's terrific fun to be had with the pop culture references and in-jokes.

Sandra Bullock plays a clean-living cop who collects memorabilia from the golden age of violence and even gets to tell Stallone all about President Schwarzenegger before Sly puts his head in his hands and says "Don't tell me, I don't want to know".

The whole mad mess culminates in a wild and frankly ridiculous climax that is so silly and outrageously over the top it simply denies you the right to critically evaluate it.

This is the kind of film you just have to smile at. Out-dated, outrageous and big fun in a way only fluff from the 90s can be, Demolition Man is hugely entertaining nonsense from start to finish and perfect pandemic escapism to boot.

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