'Demolition Man' looks awfully familiar

October 09, 1993|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

Say hello to Hollywood's vision of a horrible, un-livable future:

All guns are in a museum. Cars drive themselves. People have no-contact sex. No one's been murdered for more than a decade. Cops arrest people for using profanity.

How could you possibly make this into a pyrotechnic action film?

Rambo to the rescue!

Oops. Actually, Sylvester Stallone is named John Spartan in his latest film. But the formula seems familiar: iconoclast hero, deranged villain, lots of gunplay, things going boom and acres and acres of well-defined musculature.

At least "Demolition Man" makes an attempt at humor, although it often is painfully precious. For example, in the future of 2032, cop Spartan discovers Arnold Schwarzeneg- ger has been president, and already has a library in his name.

So this is a science-fiction film?

Not quite, for good sci-fi involves believable science and plausible fiction. "Demolition Man" offers merely a future fantasy, whose cartoon outlines seem highly unlikely.

The movie opens in the near future, specifically Los Angeles of 1996, which we first see in a nighttime helicopter shot, with flames flickering everywhere. (Hmmm, it looks a lot like "Blade Runner.")

Portions of the city have been given over to criminals and one particularly bad seed, Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes), is holding 30 innocent bus passengers hostage.

Enter Mr. Stallone as "Demolition Man," so-called from previous cases, where things got destroyed. He drops from a helicopter to stage a solo rescue. (Now, it looks like "Escape From New York.")

Afterward, the hostages are found dead, and the good cop is convicted of manslaughter. Both Phoenix and Spartan end up being frozen in a "cryo-prison," put into stasis and fed chemicals aimed at reprogramming their brains toward right thinking.

Jump ahead to 2032, in the megalopolis now called San Angeles. Everybody says "be well" to each other, they're "patterned" at birth to be locatable at all times and if anybody swears, he or she gets a demerit.

But young police officer Lenina Huxley (Sandra Bullock) -- yes, we get the word play on "Brave New World" author Aldous Huxley -- is strangely discontent. She collects artifacts from the '90s, such as a "Lethal Weapon" poster, and has studied Jackie Chan karate films.

In her peaceful precinct, she's almost a "Dirty Harry" kind of rebel. (Hmmm. Don't those police cars look like the vehicles in "Sleeper"?)

Ah, but she's about to learn about real violence, for Simon Phoenix escapes.

Who can stop him? The futuristic computers punch up the cop who originally captured Phoenix, and Spartan/Stallone is soon thawing out those dormant muscles.

It takes no great insight to figure where all this is headed: more action and death than this city has seen since the Big One of 2010. (Hmm, and some of it looks like "Total Recall," "Terminator" and "Die Hard.")

None of it stands much scrutiny, of course.

For one thing, the 40-year time span seems far too short for the suggested societal changes to begin to take place. Woody Allen at least set "Sleeper" 200 years ahead.

dTC Further, the movie seems to be saying violence is a vital quality to society, and trying to control it is not only futile but leads to wimpishness.

And that's the worst Hollywood/Stallone horror of all.

MOVIE REVIEW

"Demolition Man"

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes and Sandra Bullock

Directed by Marco Brambilla

Released by Warner Bros. and Silver Pictures

... **

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