Demolition Man is a 1993 action/adventure film starring Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, and Sandra Bullock. It was directed by Marco Brambilla based upon a screenplay written by Peter Lenkov and Robert Reneau, produced by Joel Silver, and distributed by Warner Bros. The film is 1 hour and 50 minutes long and is available on VHS and DVD for home viewing. It is also a pretty entertaining film, if you can get past some of the elements that are way over the top.
The plotline itself is pretty straightforward. Simon Phoenix (played way over the top by Wesley Snipes) is a convicted murderer; unfortunately, in the process of bringing him to justice, Detective John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) inadvertently causes the death of a large number of hostages. As a result, both men are subjected to cryogenic inprisonment, meaning that they are both frozen until their sentence is up.
Fast forward forty years to a future that is a seeming utopia: clean, pristine, and free of crime. Simon Phoenix is unfrozen and manages to escape the prison, and the weak police force is unable to deal with him. As a result, the police decide to unfreeze John Spartan to chase him down. Chaos ensues, including fine dining at Taco Bell, a special appearance by Jesse Ventura, the three seashells, radio stations that play nothing but outdated jingles, and an underground resistance force led by Edgar Friendly (played by Denis Leary) who dine on rat-burgers, among other things.
This film often comes off (to me, anyway) as though there were too many good ideas going on, and as a result they got thrown somewhat haphazardly into the film. The setting is extremely well conceived and detailed, so rich that it almost overshadows the primary plotline of the movie (and for me is much more interesting than the main plot). Almost like Josie and the Pussycats, this is one movie with a lot of great stuff going on in the background and just beneath the surface. In fact, it is widely known that the original cut of this film was much, much longer; in order to be palatable to a summer action-adventure crowd, it was stripped down to the bare essentials. It is truly a film that seems simple at first glance, but is quite rewarding if you give it a few watchings.
Aside from the three primary characters (all solidly acted, including Snipes' wildly amusing portrayal of Simon Phoenix), the minor characters are very well acted. Denis Leary stands out as Edgar Friendly, the figurative "man in the middle." Also of note is the always-good Nigel Hawthorne as Dr. Raymond Cocteau (the benevolent leader of the city), and solid performances from Benjamin Bratt, Bob Gunton, and Glenn Shadix.
The unfortunate matter of this film is that the main action plotline often runs roughshod over many aspects of the film that had the potential to be quite entertaining. The "culture shock" aspects are touched upon in a supeficial manner, but it wasn't nearly as detailed or interesting as it could have been. The underlying questions of what exactly it takes to suppress crime and criminal instinct are barely touched on at all, as well as some of the more interesting details of what led society to grow to the point that it did. This is unfortunate, because those elements of the movie were highly entertaining, much more so than the rather standard action/adventure fare that makes up the main story of the movie.
This film received only one award nomination of note, a nomination for the best villain award at the 1994 MTV Movie Awards for Wesley Snipes. It is my feeling that, although much of the underlying film is good, the generic plot stretched on top of the film drove many people away.
The film is available on VHS and DVD, of which I own the latter. The DVD has a nice feature-length commentary from director Marco Brambilla and producer Joel Silver, which is enjoyable, though I get a sense of disappointment from the final product from both of them. Still, this film is well worth viewing, if for nothing but some of the smaller elements of the plot, the setting, and some of the underlying ideas in the film.