Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, and Robert De Niro
Directed by: James Mangold
Film length: 104 mins
Theatrical Release: 1997
For a good part of my life I had not watched a Sylvester Stallone film. That might not sound like a big deal if you’re a youngin’ but I grew up in the 80’s when Rambo and Rocky were in their prime. Stallone would regularly star in action films (12 in the 80’s alone) but they looked too cheesy to me. Something that was enforced by the continuous parity of his characters at the time. I’ll point to Weird Al’s portrayal of Rambo in UHF in particular. I was a cynical teenager and, comedies aside, deemed any film that wasn’t “real” as a complete waste of time. I didn’t know how to have fun.
I eventually did watch Stallone in a movie. I was 19 or 20 when Cop Land was released and it had a few connections to one of my personal favorite films of all time, Goodfellas. That was enough to get me to see it. Not only did I enjoy Cop Land but I thought “Sly” did a good job in his role too. But since it wasn’t really a “Stallone” film, it wasn’t enough to have me check out his earlier work. I think shortly after he came out with “Driven” and I couldn’t understand why he was going back to the cheesy action when he proved he could do the “real stuff” in Cop Land.
Anyway, my real gateway drug to becoming a fan of Stallone’s work was Rambo. And when I say “Rambo”, I mean 2008’s Rambo. I’ll go into that story when I eventually cover that film since this is the 3rd paragraph and I haven’t even got to Demolition Man yet. Long story short, due to my bias toward Stallone for most of my life, there are many films in his catalog that I have yet to see. Demolition Man was one of them until this past Friday.
This film looks sharp. This is what I am looking for in terms of video quality from a Blu-ray. A lot of depth to the colour and hardly a hint of film grain. I am glad to be starting this series off with a standard to set other Blu-rays against. You don’t even need to take the age of this film into consideration. No need to upgrade this disc at all for video quality.
The DTS-HD audio track was the only option for English and it is competent. We did turn up the volume once after the first action sequence finished and the dialogue began. A standard adjustment for an old fogey like myself. The dialogue flowing from the center channel was crisp and clear and sub woofer rumbled when appropriate. I’m personally a better fan of Dolby True HD, but DTS-HD can be played back uncompressed if your home receiver supports it. Mine does, so all is good here.
Extra Features (2/5)
The score here isn’t a reflection on the features themselves but only the lack of them. There is only a theatrical trailer and a commentary starring the film’s director and producer. Come on.. where is Sly?!?! They couldn’t even get the Snipes in there. Help him pay off an IRS bill or two? I’m sure the commentary from the two industry insiders is interesting enough but it is disappointing how it is the only real feature on this disc.
The Film (3/5)
“Send a maniac to catch one”
Demolition Man opens up to an action sequence that takes place in a “future” L.A. of 1996. Simon Phoenix (Snipes) is a psychopathic killer who kidnaps a number of hostages. John Spartan, aka The Demolition Man (Stallone) is sent into the abandoned building Phoenix is holding out in to make an arrest and save the hostages. John is successful in capturing Phoenix but not before he sets off a bomb which kills all of the hostages.
Both Phoenix and Spartan are found guilty for their roles in the incident (murder and manslaughter, respectively) and are sentenced to “cool off” in a prison that cryogenically freezes their inmates for the duration of their incarceration.
Fast Forward to the year 2032 when John Spartan is thawed out to again capture the recently escaped Phoenix. While John was on ice, the populous of LA has become overtaken by a fascist leader whose ideals are a mixture of ultra liberal and conservative ones. All of which have lead to a soft/weak populous overtime, including the police who have become enforcers of ideals instead of justice. John may be a dinosaur in this future but he is the only one with the expertise to stop Phoenix from slaughtering the sheep.
This film is enjoyable even if it does have some pacing issues. There is a bit of a side story with John Spartan’s chaperone to the future, Huxley, played by Sandra Bullock. She is fine as a sounding board for John Spartan’s inevitable “fish out of water” moments, but the forced romance between the two lead to some of the most awkward parts of the film. I know I wouldn’t have missed those scenes if they were sacrificed to keep the film humming alone to a tidy 1hr 45mins instead of almost 2hrs.
Stallone himself was as good as he can be. You could tell he was having some trouble enunciated some dialogue but the moments were minor. The dude can carry a film and he does it well here.
What stood out to me/Memorable moments
Yeah, you read that right. Like Stallone, I have only seen a handful of Snipes’ films and I thought he was great in this. His Phoenix character was a pant load of fun (even if he is a bit cartoon villain-ish at times) and I definitely got some Joker vibes from him. It makes me wonder why his performance here never placed him in contention for the roll in any of the Batman films… probably the black thing. I look forward to watching more Snipes going forward.
The Denis Leary’s speech
While liberals have the freedom to walk the land since they are easy pushovers for the fascists, the conservatives are forced into hiding in the underground. They are lead by Edgar Friendly (Leary), who despite having adequate firepower, little food, and a huge chip on his shoulder, doesn’t start a rebellion against the fascists because he isn’t a… leader? He just “does what he has to do.” Yeeeah… Anyway Leary’s Dan Aykroyd-esq ability to talk fast leads to a memorable speech about having the freedom to drink soda and smoke cigars. He’d rather be free to live how he wants in a dirty basement than sing commercial jingles with the sissies on the main floor. ‘merica.
The rat burger
Yep. Stallone eats a rat burger. Finishes it too after discovering it is a rat burger a few bites in. Because freedom means the ability to eat what you want, when you want. Let freedom reign.
A 1970 Oldsmobile 442. Holy shit, yes. This classic American gas guzzler of yesteryear (probably still runs on leaded fuel) gets a chase scene and is able to keep up with the sissy liberal cars of the future. I grew up in the 80’s on a steady dose of the The Dukes of Hazzard, Smokey & the Bandit, and Starsky & Hutch. So naturally I have fondness for American muscle cars from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Props to Stallone for keeping the trend of featuring a cool car alive while we’re now well into the 90’s.
Final Verdict and Overall Rating
Demolition Man has a few glaring plot holes and pacing issues but is overall an enjoyable film. Its underlining pro-right wing attitude can be a little much at times, but the film does eventually lay the blame for the rise of fascist ideology squarely on the inability for both sides to work together. Stallone at one point tells the clean liberal Chief of Police to get a little dirty and work with the conservative Edgar Friendly, who needs to get a little clean. An eerily appropriate message for today’s politicians.
Thanks for reading.