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I've Seen the Future, and It Sucks

Demolition Man

Demolition Man

Directed by Marco

Brambilla

Warner Brothers

In the future, everybody is a wuss. Everybody drives wimpy electric cars, everyone talks all nicey-poo and nobody fights or has sex. Just the kind of place where Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes could both kick some serious ass.

So goes the premise of "Demolition Man," the new action movie starring Stallone and Snipes as a supercop and a supercrook who are cryogenically frozen in the year 1996 (that's right, three years from now) and then let loose to do battle in the utopian year 2032. In spite of this promisingly elaborate premise, the filmmakers forsake any attempt at an original or engaging story in favor of a tiresome series of jabs at flakey Californian political correctness.

The movie begins with John Spartan (Stallone),wearing a hat which makes him look incredibly likeJohn Rambo, in a desperate attempt to capture themaniacal Simon Phoenix (Snipes) which ends updestroying an entire building and killing thirtyinnocent people, thus starting off the death anddestruction at a brisk pace.

Spartan is held responsible for the carnage andboth he and Phoenix are sentenced to the cryogenicpenitentiary where they will undergo some kind ofsubliminal rehabilitation through weird computerchips attached to their heads.

Thirty-six years later, when he is defrostedfor a parole hearing, Phoenix escapes withmysterious new abilities. No one in the year 2032has much experience dealing with criminals so theyhave to unfreeze Spartan to track Phoenix down.What follows is a combination of jokes about thepair's interaction with the future and theirincreasingly violent confrontations.

A certain level of stupidity should be takenfor granted in an action movie and "DemolitionMan" features many of the genre's standardcharacteristics. Catchy one-liners abound. Inresponse to the future people's greeting "Bewell," Spartan menacingly responds to a foe, "Befucked." Also, the obligation to come up with newand creative ways of killing people is fulfilledearly on when Phoenix takes out a guy's eyeballwith a fountain pen.

However, the movie also insists on being goofy.Some of the jokes are funny, such as the conceptthat in the future all restaurants are Taco Bellsand that Arnold Scwarzenegger becomes so popularthat the Constitution is amended so that he canbecome president. But most of the time the humoris just distracting and prevents the film frombuilding any intensity to drive the actionsequences.

Also, the film's conception of a fascistic, yetcompletely gentle future where people findphysical contact abhorrent and it is illegal toeat salt or swear is somewhat confusing. That is,it's confusing until Denis Leary appears as theleader of the (literally) underground rebelmovement and it becomes apparent that everythingup to that point is meant to establish the futureas a world run by the AntiLeary.

Leary gets to do a couple minutes straight fromhis stand-up routine so the movie can present itsfirm conviction that a truly free society is onein which everyone eats a lot of red meat.

Besides the poorly thought-out conceptualframework, the movie does contain some borderlineoffensive aspects in regards to Snipes' character.The film has an older Black police office,presumably to balance Snipes' role as the villian,but this character soon disappears and there isnothing left to prevent the story fromdegenerating into "Crazy Black man is hunted downby reasonable white folks." This impression is nothelped by Phoenix's strange references to biscuitsand gravy or the pseudo-hip hop scratching noiseswhich appear on the soundtrack whenever he kicksor punches someone.

However, these concerns would have taken careof themselves had the filmmakers made a seriouseffort to come up with a story which made senseand characters who were more than cartoons, but in"Demolition Man," it's clear that they haven't

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