'Demolition Man' may very well be the first action film I fell in love with. It's my ultimate guilty pleasure, a mix of hard hitting fight scenes and humorous futuristic depictions that have held up from the day the film was released. There are no metallic costumes, funky haircuts, or extremely ridiculous technology. It all makes sense. Eighteen years after its release, portions of the film have even been validated!
1996 Los Angeles is a hellhole. It's also that way in 'Demolition Man's opening act, and it's there that we meet Wesley Snipes as the ultimate urban terrorist, Simon Phoenix, a man who knows no boundaries, and is as close to the Joker from 'The Dark Knight' as any other character in film has been. His reign of terror was stopped by one man, John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone), a supercop dubbed the demolition man due to his propensity to cause mass destruction and property damage. But there's no happy ending for Spartan, as he is blamed for the death of over twenty hostages in his act of taking down Phoenix.
Sentenced to 70 years of cryogenic stasis, with behavior modification through synoptic suggestion, Spartan's life is just about over, as his wife and child will be dead before his sentence ends. But in 2032, the unfreezing of Phoenix for a parole hearing goes awry, and the criminal mastermind is unleashed into a future that is heavily regulated and harmonic. In order to catch a maniac, the police send another one to hunt him down, as Spartan now must navigate the politics of his conditional release as he attempts to bring down his mortal enemy, once and for all.
Tell me that doesn't sound awesome. Go on. You can't deny it, can you? This isn't 'Timecop.' This is an actioner with brains to match its braun, with a fantastic mix of science fiction, comedy, and ass kicking to go along with the cautionary tale of a society that neuters itself to the point of impracticality. You have the ultimate good guy, who cares more about the end result than the means of getting there, and the epitome of chaos, a man who would be his perfect foil, if he didn't share the destructive nature. Thrown into the mix for good measure is Sandra Bullock, before she was a superstar, as a policewoman obsessed with 20th century culture, who mixes up her lingo so frequently that her every attempt to relate to Spartan and sound tough comes across as crudely sexual. "Let's go blow this guy!" Truer battle cries have never been spoken, Sandy.
The Los Angeles portrayed in 'Demolition Man' is eerily prophetic. It's no secret the comments about Arnold Schwarzenegger holding great political office coming true, and being quite a hilarious joke turned true, but there's also the hidden mention of Scott Peterson. Up for parole the same day as Phoenix, this film has a man who, a decade later, would kill his wife and unborn child, by the same name. How spooky is that shit?! And what about Snipes' run ins with the law? Did the government sic the real Sly on his ass for tax evasion? Sure, for every fun, relevant vision there are failures, but they work in the context of the film. The fast food chain wars ending? Unlikely. Guns and graffiti disappearing from Los Angeles, with no murder for 22 years?! Yeah, sure. A frozen Jeffrey Dahmer? That...that can't happen. A massive earthquake in 2010? Not in LA there wasn't! The voyeuristic Police Department able to track your every move, fining you for misbehavior such as vulgarity in your own home?! Well...that one may turn out to be the truth someday soon...
The two fish out of water, looking like barbarians to the more socially advanced citizens who underestimate their determination, it doesn't get much better than that. The way the Phoenix character is fashioned, with his cryogenic brainwashing being tampered with is intriguing, and his mission once thawed is quite simply one of the most intelligent things in an already smart film. The class separation between meat eating independent thinkers and those considered civil, and the attempts to kill the "scrap" leader? Genius. Using a terrorist to take down a "terrorist," in a film where a maniac is sent to take down a maniac. It's just layers of awesome. Throw in dialogue like "You're going to regret this for the rest of your life...both seconds of it!", and it's hard to not love this film. Hell, even Dennis Leary is present, with his anarchist character resembling his No Cure for Cancer comedy routine ironically, ranting and raving like a madman, who just so happens to be right, selfish as he may be.
To this day, there are still mysteries about 'Demolition Man.' Where did Spartan and Phoenix find all the ammo for their archaic weapons? Why don't the stun rods clobber those strapping them to them so sloppily? How exactly do the three seashells work?! ?! Has there ever been a more bad ass hero in film who could also knit a sweater? It boggles the mind. 'Demolition Man' is, easily, one of the smartest action flicks possibly ever, and it doesn't even seem like it tried to be. It just worked out. With Phoenix and Spartan seemingly willing to duel until eternity, there's every element needed for a fantastic action romp present and accounted for. Science fiction trash, as it may be, it's still an action gem.
The Disc: Vital Stats
The French import of 'Demolition Man' will not be the same disc featured in America when the film debuts in August. It's impossible. While the static, silent menu is all in English, there are far too many subtitle and dub options that we rarely see here in the States. More telling, this film has two versions, with a bit of ADR changing a section of the film. Remember those fast food wars? In the American version of the film, it's Taco Bell that won, so every line mentions them. However, in other countries, it's changed to Pizza Hut. In the film, the lips still crave tacos, but the words coming out of them don't, and there's even a sign changed to say Pizza Hut. However, the glass still has the bell slogan etched into it. This alone proves that we won't see this disc just slapped in a new case with English writing and called a day.
The disc itself is a Region free BD50. The title of the film doesn't change country to country, so the spine still says 'Demolition Man,' though the rest of the text is altered.
The packaging for this import indicates the film is shown in an opened up (or cropped, pick one) 1.85:1 frame. That's just not true. The AVC MPEG-4 encode at 1080p is in the film's natural 2.35:1 window, so, crisis averted.
That said, the transfer is good, but not great. The ratio of super sharp moments and flat hazy ones is far to close to 1:1 for my liking. The picture can be overly bright, which causes some bleed, tainted black levels, and just an abnormal color scheme that saps some detail away from the picture, particularly in daytime exterior scenes. Interior shots, they're quite fine. Detail levels get an obvious boost for the majority of the film, where textures finally become clear and defined, which is a plus. The grain levels aren't tampered with, edges aren't tarnished, and there is no sign of DNR. Noise pops up in a few screens, but never in the rest of the film.
As much as I love this film, I was hoping for a demo disc. I can't say I'm all that happy here, but this could have been so much worse. A standard catalog release, and nothing more.
The default track on this import is the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, with no subtitles turned on. Sometimes, imports are just that awesome.
This track is not amazing, by any means. It's actually fairly generic, with a few ups, and some downs, nothing to really applaud. Bass elements are hit or miss, rarely powerful. Gunfire? Lacking. Bullets rarely whizz through the room, and only sometimes choose to localize. Like many effects, usually they stick in the front channels, but sometimes wander to the back. The fight sequences have a hard time coming through clearly with all the elements, the impacts, ambience, score, and it can become a bit of a blur. The score's peaks lack any high range, so they sound poor, though there are a few appreciable volume spikes.
You know, I never thought I'd say this, but the highlight of this track is the "sex" scene. That's just wrong.
The extras that appear on this import are currently slated to appear as the only extras on the domestic release.
I have no doubt in my mind that the domestic release of 'Demolition Man' will be different than this import. Taco Bell demands it. The question is, will there be anything technically different? With the addition or subtraction of tracks taking up disc space, who knows. All that matters to me is having this fantastically fun action romp in my home video collection. I loved it when I first saw it, and I love it today. This is a film that doesn't lose anything with repeat viewings. If you're impatient, there are countries with this release that are cheap enough to justify an import to get it three plus months early, but for those who aren't that antsy for some Stallone vs Snipes action, this may serve as a preview of what's to come!