Top 10… Reasons Why I Love Demolition Man

The Top 10 lists are back! Apologies for the recent extended break I’ve unintentionally taken from posting anything, I was waiting for my housing situation to resolve itself but that doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon, so I may as well get back to typing. Anyway, as I said, the Top 10 lists have returned, and this time with something a little different. Normally, I’d list of ten films, or scenes, or characters or whatever, but this week – and every so often after – I’m looking at just one film in particular, as a celebration for how much I love it. The prestigious honour of the first film goes to a movie I championed for the most recent Movie of the Month poll over at the Lamb. Due to it being so amazing, the film won with a landslide victory, and I was able to host an episode of the Lambcast on it, which can be listened to here.DemolitionMan14

So what is this film, I hear you ask? Well, it’s Demolition Man, the 1993 action/crime/sci-fi/comedy directed by Marco Brambilla, produced by Joel Silver and starring Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes and Sandra Bullock. The basic premise sees Stallone’s sergeant John Spartan, a renegade cop in 1996’s burning L.A., track down Snipes’ Simon Phoenix, a psychopathic killer. During Phoenix’s arrest, Spartan is incorrectly blamed for the deaths of Phoenix’s hostages, and both men are sentenced to prison, but not just any incarceration. No, they are cryogenically frozen and mentally ‘reprogrammed’ to become better citizens, with the intention of thawing them out many years in the future. In 2032, Phoenix is thawed out for a parole hearing, but escapes the prison facility and goes on the run. The police force in the now-peaceful future utopia are ill-equipped to deal with Phoenix’s brand of mindless violence, and so Spartan is defrosted to help catch him.

So, without further ado, here’s my Top 10 reasons why I love Demolition Man: [Spoiler warning]
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Speed

100th film! Although really I’d have preferred it to have been the 50th, seeing as it’s about a bus, rigged with a bomb that activates once the bus reaches 50 miles per hour, detonating should the buses speed drop below 50. The planter of the bomb is Dennis Hopper’s vengeful psychotic ex-cop Howard Payne, angry at Keanu Reeves and Jeff Daniels’ foiling of his first elevator-based hostage situation and eager for a paycheck he feels he’s been cheated. But you don’t care about the motive or who’s behind it, as Payne tells Reeves’ Jack Traven, “Your concern is the bus.” Whenever the film detracts from this central conceit, be it following the non bus bound cops trying to track down Payne or Hopper himself watching the action unfold on the ever present media, the pacing immediately slackens, so enticing is the central plot.

Crash (2004)

An all-star cast playing characters from all walks of life who, over a period of a couple of days, become intertwined with one another’s lives through circumstances distressing, joyous, criminal and fatal. No, I’m not talking about a masterpiece lovingly crafted by Paul Thomas Anderson or Robert Altman, instead a thoroughly commercial, awards-baiting crowd-pleaser from Paul Haggis, largely depicting themes of racism and prejudice in Los Angeles. Featuring a pair of car jackers (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges & Larenz Tate), a racist cop (Matt Dillon) and his rookie partner (Ryan Phillippe), dating police detectives (Don Cheadle & Jennifer Espoisto), a TV director and his wife (Terrence Howard & Thandie Newton), the LA district attorney and his socialite wife (Brendan Fraser & Sandra Bullock), a Persian storeowner and his family and a Mexican locksmith (Michael Pena), as well as secondary characters including William Fichtner and Keith David, it is clear that Haggis wanted to make a film to be discussed, to be seen by many and considered for awards a-plenty, but not necessarily a good film. The issues he discusses are important and the situations topical, for example a black director being told to make one of his characters ‘talk blacker’, or a district attorney concerned about his public ratings after being mugged by two black criminals, but the revelations are shallow and the characters stereotypical, none of them deep enough to warrant a great deal of screen time, in contrast to Anderson’s Magnolia or Altman’s Short Cuts. That said, the film is enjoyable, the cast do well and some of the dialogue is excellent, so go ahead and watch it anyway. I could argue that it didn’t deserve the Oscar for Best Picture, but up against Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich and Brokeback Mountain I don’t really know who is more worthy.
Choose film 6/10