Where would art be without innovation? If F.W. Murnau and the other pioneers of the early years of cinema had not persevered through the restraints of film’s infancy, then audiences would never get to see a Wesley Snipes fight scene timed to funk beats. How far art has come. Demolition Man is the strange new era of future crime-fighting and the marriage of action genre films and horribly planned-out time travel scorch marks. It will relay and channel the same tones and mood of the science-fiction genre that founded further Sylvester Stallone features like Judge Dredd. Telling that his career would rely on these themes and turns from time to time. They can be seen as early as Cobra. They probably peaked there too.
Not surprising, since a lot of Demolition Man tries to outmanoeuvre its audience but subsequently stutters along without much thought. The compliance of police officers in a rapidly changing America means the style of this Marco Brambilla-directed feature loses its focus almost immediately. When the humour underlining the rise and rise of Snipes’ crime lord cuts through any of the action or severity attempted by the supporting performers, an imbalance of themes is highlighted. With Snipes cutting shapes and mocking the anxiety-riddled police officers, there is little else that can cut through. Not that anything else would provide much of a grand entrance for the characters here.
When Rob Schneider is manning the comms and Bill Cobbs is swanning around the place, it is hard to take either tone of Demolition Man all that seriously. Struggling to move from light-hearted shifts in tone and harsher action setpieces, Brambilla is neither a convincing dramatist nor an interesting action director. Stallone feels completely transparent, another meathead for the main character role. What more can be expected from a lead character named John Spartan? Still, it is hard to feel bad for Stallone, whose imitable and simple qualities as a leading man are transferred through Demolition Man so frequently and frighteningly poorly. Difficult it may be to feel any sympathy for that process, it is hard to brush the feature off to the side, especially when Nigel Hawthorne is suffering on through.
A feature that thrives on the suffering and upsetting of the cast and audience, Demolition Man demolishes any real expectations of quality. Its action is no good, and when the staple of the genre tag is missing, there is little else to experience. A lack of quality is the overall effect, not just in the setting of this piece but the complete lack of energy and sensibility to it all. If Brambilla hoped his cast would take his advice and go crazy with their performances, then he failed to capture the vital ingredients that make the genre work so well. Take a look at Commando, or even Cobra, for how to do it properly. Stallone should no better. He was a pioneer of the genre that Demolition Man so frequently fails to leave its mark on. It is rather obvious as to why. Too much going on, not enough of it being anywhere close to stunning or even slightly entertaining action.