Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I recently saw ‘Natasha’ my first film by Indian director Jag Mundhra and proclaimed that movie my brand new ‘guilty pleasure’ usurping this flick, ‘Demolition Man’ which has been atop my guilty pleasure list for like fifteen years. One of the things that made ‘Demolition Man’ such a favorite is the fact that if I’m changing the channels and it happens to be on the tube, if I don’t change that channel IMMEDIATELY, I will be trapped in its sinister web and will ultimately watch it to the end yet again. But I haven’t seen ‘Demolition Man’ in like years which got me to thinking was it wise to make such a bold statement. A movie that has been number one for so long deserves a fair revisiting, so I dust off my copy of Sly and Wesley and Sandra doing that thing they did to investigate if ‘Natasha’, as gloriously silly as it was, deserves to be ranked in front of ‘Demolition Man’.

John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) is a bad man. Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) is way worse. In ‘the near futuristic’ Los Angeles, 1996 since the movie was released in 1993, all hell has broken loose and Phoenix has a bus load of hostages that he is ransoming but Super badass cop John Spartan is on his way to save the day. In the first of many bang up action sequences Spartan captures his man and escapes the building that his arch enemy has just blown up with his prisoner in tow, but tragically, all of the hostages were still inside. Spartan swears that he checked and the ‘thermal tracker’ revealed no life signs, but there are dead bodies everywhere which has led to the great John Spartan going into cryo-freeze for his crimes for the next seventy years.

In the year 2033 times have changed. Physical contact, cursing, violence, sodium, meat, and violence among other things have all been eliminated by the champion of the new world order, Dr. Raymond Cocteau (Nigel Hawthorne), but some people can’t live without meat (hello!) and there is a resistance group who lives under the sewers of

the new San Angeles and are lead by one Edgar Friendly (Dennis Leary).  To deal with this enemy of the state Cocteau has defrosted Simon Phoenix who introduces the pacifist police department of San Angeles to unfamiliar code of 187, or Murder – Death – Kill.  As old cop Zachary lamb would let you know, to deal with an old school criminal you need an old school cop and on the urgings of San Angeles top cop and avowed 20th century fanatic Lenina Huxley (Sandra Bullock), John Spartan is reborn.

Of course part of the fun of ‘Demolition Man’ is watching the ultra violent John Spartan reacquaint himself with his new surrounds such as Taco Bell being the only restaurant in town, or sex using cybernetic helmets and of course the abolition of toilet paper in favor of the three sea shell technique.  But his primary purpose is to bring down Simon Phoenix who has been reprogrammed while in stasis to be stronger, meaner ,and tougher and has also become a crack computer hacker while Spartan was reprogrammed to know how to knit.  None of this really matters because eventually Simon Phoenix is going to get his ass kicked.  I hope I didn’t spoil it for you.

Now after watching ‘Demolition Man’ for the first time in years, has ‘Natasha’ replaced it as my number one guilty pleasure?  Why yes it has.  Because friends, ‘Demolition Man’ is no longer a guilty pleasure but just a regular old everyday great movie.  Now I'm watching ‘Demolition Man’ at the show back in ’93 with my fiancée at the time who absolutely hated the movie and read various reviews which universally panned this flick.  But despite the fact I found it incredibly entertaining I was a young man and still cared about my image somewhat.  I wasn’t going to lie  and tell anyone who asked me that I didn’t like the movie, so instead I just labeled it as a ‘guilty pleasure’.  A guilty pleasure, I think, is a movie that you recognize as bad but you love it anyway… like ‘Natasha’.  Since I no longer give a flying fig what people think about me, I am no longer ashamed to say that ‘Demolition Man’ is borderline brilliant and is certainly one of my favorite movies of all time.

Sure ‘Demolition Man’ has plenty of action and it was marketed as such but in reality this was a satirical comedy and a damn good one.  With John Spartan, Sylvester Stallone is satirizing almost every character he’s ever played up to that point.  Stallone had tried action comedy before say with ‘Tango and Cash’ or ‘Oscar’ but in this one he was actually funny, and it was a natural humor as he wasn’t actually trying to be funny or anything, but just being ‘Cobra’ reacting to his new ridiculous surroundings.  And has Wesley Snipes ever given a performance as alive and as energetic as Simon Phoenix before or since?  I don’t think so.  Unlike most of his recent roles he actually looked as if he was having a good time in this movie.  And has Sandra Bullock ever been hotter than she was in this movie?  I don’t think so.  ‘Speed’ might have made her a star, but ‘Demolition Man’ got the girl the part in ‘Speed’ in the first place.  The script is funny and clever, the action sequences are great and there’s not a single person in this film taking this thing seriously.   I mean when Spartan is in the sewer with the rebels eating a much cherished long desired hamburger and Huxley asks him ‘Do you see any cows around here?’, that’s some inspired stuff right there.

Sure ‘Demolition Man’ can be a bit too silly at times and you may groan at some of the one liners that come out mouths of Snipes or Stallone on occasion but I’m trying right now to think of movie that’s a better action comedy than this one, at least of the movies I’ve seen, and it ain’t coming to me.  ‘Midnight Run’ maybe?  ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ maybe?  I don’t know… I think I’m sticking with ‘Demolition Man’ baby.

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