Thursday, July 08, 2010

Underrated Movie #84: Demolition Man


I told you I could go lower! The grand finale of Cheesy Movies Week!

Title: Demolition Man
Year: 1993
Director: Marco Brambilla (who?)
Writers: Peter M. Lenkov, Robert Reneau, Daniel Waters
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock, Nigel Hawthorne (!), Benjamin Bratt, Denis Leary, Andre Gregory (!), Jesse Ventura

The Story: By 1996 (3 years later??), Los Angeles has been turned into a smoking ruin by out-of-control crime. When a rogue cop named Sgt. John Spartan (Stallone) goes all out to arrest a gung-ho hostage-taker named Simon Phoenix (Snipes), the hostages end up dead, so both the criminal and the cop get put in a new cryogenic prison. Cut to 2032, when Phoenix escapes to wreak havoc on the politically-correct utopia of San Angeles. The goody-goody cops of the future realize that the only way to stop him is to unfreeze Sgt. Spartan, too.

How it Came to be Underrated: This movie isn’t just underrated, it’s thoroughly despised. The critics hated it at the time, and still do. Most of my own like-minded friends hated it, and still do. But I find it to be wildly enjoyable. Your mileage will probably vary.

Why It’s Great Cheesy Fun:

  1. Remember when our country had so few problems that our worst-case-scenario for a dystopian future was an excess of political correctness? Even the near-future fears about an excess of street crime now seem quaint. The long-lost Americans of the ‘90s had no idea how good they had it.
  2. This plot description may sound knee-jerk right-wing but it actually plays out in a remarkably evenhanded way. Stallone really is too reckless and the future really is safer and rather idyllic even though they did it by outlawing weapons, alcohol, caffeine, contact sports, meat, bad language, chocolate, gasoline, uneducational toys, abortion and pregnancy without a license. The re-liberation that Stallone brings to the future is frankly shown to be a risky trade-off.
  3. The same critics that hated this movie were busy overpraising Paul Verhoeven’s ultra-violent futuristic epics. Some of those movies weren’t bad, but I always found Verhoeven’s satirical elements to be juvenile and simplistic in movies like Robocop and Starship Troopers. By contrast, I find this movie’s satire, while very silly, to be far more clever and amusing. Too many satires make the mistake of painting all of their targets as disingenuous hypocrites, but it’s far more interesting if there are some true believers on both sides.
  4. This was Bullock’s first widely-released movie and she’s already stealing every scene as a perky future cop. I remember hoping that I would see her again. It’s nice when these things actually work out. Only Bullock is plucky and guileless enough to pull off malapropisms like “He’s finally matched his meat. You really licked his ass!” (Yes, that’s the general level of the humor. I never said that the movie wasn’t crude.)

If You Like This, You Should Also Check Out: This movie forms an informal trilogy with two other Andre Gregory movies, My Dinner With Andre and Vanya on 42nd Street. Actually, that’s not true at all. But you should watch those anyway. Then watch this one. When you’re drunk.

How Available Is It?: It’s on DVD with commentary (which I sadly have yet to listen to)

Today’s Post Was Brought To You By: The Forever Machine!

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