Demolition Man or Rocky Road

Demolition Man

Demolition Man

The past is a foreign country they say and the future, well, the future is a foreign body, a far away planet in a distant galaxy filled with shiny happy people wandering around with huge smiles and a blank stare, as though freshly lobotomised. Smoking is illegal, caffeine, meat, chocolate, narcotics, guns, anything even vaguely hedonistic is outlawed. Don’t worry there’s still sex, that is, if your definition of sex involves strapping some kind of neural transmitter on top of your head and simulating intercourse through brainwaves. Yes, cyber-sex has come a long way.

Welcome to Los Angeles 2032, where there is a Schwarzenegger Presidential Library, swearing is punishable by automated, on-the-spot fines and everyone is dressed like an extra from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado. Rather than the inevitable dystopian wasteland that we were all expecting, everything is just fine, thank you very much. It is the pinnacle of human civilisation. There is no murder, violence or serious crime. There’s not even a jaywalker to be seen crossing the road with reckless abandon. There is no action.
Flashback 39 years to 1993 and our hero, John “Demolition Man” Spartan, (Sylvester Stallone), a maverick LAPD detective who will stop at nothing to take down his nemesis, the vicious and sadistic Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes). Phoenix’s rap sheet spans murder, kidnapping, terrorism, tax evasion. Wait, sorry, that last one is just Wesley Snipes. Spartan manages to capture Phoenix, but at the expense of 30 or so innocent souls being held hostage by the peroxide blonde dungarees wearing maniac. Both of them are held responsible for the deaths and sentenced to decades in cryogenic suspension as punishment.

Phoenix is thawed out in 2032 by scheming scientist and overseer of this brave new world, Dr Cocteau, (Nigel Hawthorne), for the purpose of killing Edgar Friendly, (Denis Leary), an underground refusenik who likes burgers, beer and sex the old-fashioned way. That’s right; thirty seconds of foreplay followed by a minute of awkward humping; none of this newfangled computer interface malarkey. Friendly is the leader of a Mad Max styled group of rebels who pose a direct threat to Dr Cocteau’s utopian vision of an anodyne society where everything is heavily prescribed and regulated. They live hand to mouth in drains and sewers waging a guerilla campaign that is restricted to going topside to steal food supplies every so often.

When Phoenix goes postal and starts offing people after his release from the cryogenic facility, the police of the new century decide that the only way to stop a heavily armed, destructive psychotic is to set a heavily armed, destructive psychotic after him. You guessed it; they defrost Spartan, reinstate him as a policeman and point him in the general direction of Phoenix.

Spartan takes some time to readjust to all the changes that have gone on during his time in frosty incarceration. He is aided in his acclimatisation by perky policewoman Huxley (Sandra Bullock) who is deathly bored of life in the gleaming future and longs for the insecurities, random cruelties and hustle of Spartan’s time.

Together they are able to unravel Cocteau’s machinations and save the life of Friendly and his rabble of subterranean followers. They track Phoenix down to the cryogenic facility where he is attempting to release an army of thawed out maniacs to pillage and pull down the hollow facade of 21st century humanity and plunge civilisation back into the dark ages, well, the nineties. In the spirit of ironic and unusual death sequences, Spartan foils Phoenix by flash freezing him and then smashing his head into a thousand ice cubes. He then contrives to narrowly escape the facility before everything becomes engulfed in one huge fireball.

Stallone is a natural candidate for cryogenic suspension since his acting style is of the iceberg variety: emotionless, frigid and blunt. Snipes is slightly better and relishes capering on-screen like a demented Cabbage Patch kid. Dialogue is at a premium with an explosion scheduled in every few minutes. There’s plenty of slow motion camera panning as we watch both Spartan and Phoenix fly through the air, all guns blazing and to be fair, Demolition Man is Ronseal film-making. It delivers exactly what it says on the tag-line and trailer. Sure, many will scoff at its quirky portrayal of the years to come, but I for one would like to believe that at least one thing is for certain: Arnold Schwarzenegger will become President and, shortly afterwards, everything will become engulfed in one huge fireball.