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April 11, 2008 |

By TK Burton | Hangover Theater | April 11, 2008 |

Ah, Hangover Theater. I realize now, particularly after reading the reviews of my esteemed colleague Mr. Prisco, that I have done thee a disservice. I didn’t fully comprehend the point of Hangover Theater. My review of 48 Hours was probably cheating. In retrospect, Hangover Theater is not about quality films. It is not about groundbreaking cinema, or exciting first performances. No, Hangover Theater is about turning the lights down, curling up with an egg sandwich and a bottle of water, and watching something to dull the pain. And what dulls your senses more than dumb action movies? Nothing. Nothing at all, I say.

Which is why I present to you perhaps the dumbest of the dumb action movies (not directed by Michael Bay or Simon West) — Demolition Man. I hardly know where to begin. Because make no mistake, you collection of suffering boozebags, Demolition Man is fucking stupid. I mean, jaw-droppingly fucking stupid. It’s got plot holes you could skid a school bus through sideways. It’s got leaps in logic that defies the laws of common sense, not to mention physics. It’s got more shots of Stallone’s well-spritzed ass than I care to recollect. It’s got Wesley Snipes wearing striped pants and a checkered leather jacket, with bleached-blond hair (so you know he’s really evil!). It’s got Rob Schneider. (And let me tell you folks, on the list of people that I would enjoy picking up by the neck and crotch and throwing up and then down a flight of stairs, and then perhaps into a lake filled with mutant zombie alligators who enjoy sexually molesting humans … well, Rob Schneider is high up on that list. I loathe that bug-eyed, cheap-seat, mouth-breathing sucktastic vortex of talent and self-respect more than almost any other actor this side of Larry the Cable Guy.)

And yet — and yet, I’m strangely drawn to Demolition Man. In fact, when I was checking out what’s showing this weekend, I actually made a little “ooh lookie!” noise when I saw it on the schedule. In fact, I eschewed infinitely funnier (not to mention smarter) fare in its favor. Because as much as the phrase is overused, the fact is that Demolition Man really is so bad it’s good. No, really. Shut up, it is. Don’t look at me like that. I’m serious, Goddamnit!

So let me count the reasons why:

1. The Plot. First thing to note: this movie stars Sylvester Stallone (Over The Top, Rhinestone) as John Spartan, a breathtakingly virile police officer who is known for his violence and unabashed destruction of public property, so much so that it earns him the titular nickname, Demolition Man. And since every ultra-violent, speech-impeded, greased-up superhero needs an arch-nemesis, Wesley Snipes (Money Train, The Detonator) plays Simon Phoenix, the deadly, rapacious criminal who hates authority and laughs at an uncomfortably high pitch. Spartan plays the Batman to Phoenix’s Joker in a futuristic 1996, where Los Angeles has been turned into a giant war zone that looks suspiciously like it was constructed from dirty Playmobiles. Eventually, they duke it out in an abandoned warehouse, and Phoenix is captured, but not before Spartan blows up the building, unwittingly blowing up a couple dozen hostages as well. As a result, they are both condemned to be cryogenically frozen as punishment. Obviously, if you have two muscle-bound mass murderers, the best punishment is to make them into murderer-sicles. Anyway. Blah blah, fast forward 40 years to 2036 where Simon Phoenix, a.k.a. Blade II: Electric Boogaloo (is that joke overused yet?) escapes from his frozen prison (as if risen from the grave… like a Phoenix! Hey-O!), kills a bunch of guards, and promptly proceeds to go on a rampage through the new city known as San Angeles (Los Angeles and Santa Barbara merged after an earthquake… or something). Phoenix is able to freely run amuck because San Angeles has been turned into some creepy dystopian “Futurama” episode, where things like alcohol, drugs, smoking, sex, swearing and presumably peeing outside have been banned. They’ve completely eliminated all forms of crime, to the point where the cops no longer know how to deal with actual violence. So of course, the only way for them to deal with the wild and crazy Simon Phoenix is to thaw out the man who caught him, one John Spartan. Cut to second shot of Stallone’s ass. Oy.

Anyway, Spartan is revived, he has to deal with the silly ways of peaceful and gentle San Angeles, he swears a lot and takes a shit, he has some sort of weird mind sex with Sandra Bullock, and a bunch of shit blows up. He then has an argument with the police chief because heroes always have loud arguments with their police chief, a bunch more shit blows up, Dennis Leary leads a bunch of chain-smoking, rat-eating, alcoholic Road Warrior rip-offs to a revolt against the cult-like leader of San Angeles (who, unsurprisingly, is actually eeeevil), a bunch more shit blows up and then Stallone makes out with Sandra Bullock. Along the way he learns that Taco Bell is the only restaurant left, Arnold Schwarzenegger used to be President (gulp!), and that for some reason everyone dresses like they buy their clothes at the Jedi Council Cheap Knock-Off Shoppe.

2. The cast: I’ve already mentioned Stallone and Snipes. Sandra Bullock (The Net, Fire on the Amazon) stars as the perky cop/sidekick/disturbing love interest Lenina Huxley (get it? Huxley? Yep, that’s a Brave New World reference folks! Sleep tight.), while Dr. Raymond Cocteau, the aforementioned cult leader, is played by Nigel Hawthorne (The Madness of King George). Then there is also Schneider, playing an annoying asshole as usual. But what’s even more fascinating is that there are probably a dozen “that guys” in this movie. Seriously. If you’re a random trivia geek like me, this is a treasure trove of “that guy” moments. The dude with the eels from Nightbreed? Absolutely! The black Agent Johnson from Die Hard? Yup, he’s there (oddly, again in a helicopter). The captain from the Lethal Weapon movies? You betcha! The bouncer from the rave scene in Blade? Uh huh. Jesse freakin’ Ventura? You’re damn skippy! Dan Motherfucking Cortese? Sadly, yes. It’s a cornucopia of useless actor trivia. Christ, Jack Black is in it!

Oh, I forgot to mention — if you think you’re gonna make it through a movie where Wesley Snipes plays a guy named Simon … without any Simon Says references? Boy, do I have some bad news for you.

3. The direction: Directed by Marco Brambilla, whose only other full-length credit is 1997’s Excess Baggage, Demolition Man is a mess. It succeeds in being a high-budget action movie that looks like it was funded by breaking into my car and stealing the change under the floor mats. The vision of the future for Demolition Man basically consists of gluing some extra plastic to some well-polished Oldsmobiles, raiding the wardrobes and sets of both Mad Max and Defending Your Life, buying grown-up sized G.I. Joe guns and calling it a day. The music consists of either insanely bombastic orchestral pieces during the action scenes, or, most puzzlingly, resurrecting UTFO for all of Wesley Snipes scenes. I shit you not. Watch his scenes and see if you can hold yourself back from doing the Worm.

However, the best part of the directing is that Demolition Man tries to be a smart movie disguised as a dumb movie. Basically, it tries to hide a tasty bit of social commentary beneath its hard candy shell … and fails gloriously. Its failure is twofold: First, because that bit of subtlety is not even remotely subtle, and second, by not making any damn sense. It makes a lame attempt at pointing out the evils of political correctness by showing the consequences — namely, we’d all be stuck in a boring society that won’t let us masturbate and forces us to wear bathrobes all day. Except that we get to eat Taco Bell all day and drive fancy future cars! And everyone’s favorite music is … 20th Century advertising jingles? And yet, well, don’t you see? By outlawing all that is bad, we lose ourselves and become sissified, mindless drones! What is the only way to prevent this grim assimilation? Why nothing other than senseless violence! It’s completely nonsensical, so much so that if you’re willing and able to shut your cortex down, you’ll find yourself oddly drawn into its idiotic world.

On the other hand, if you’re going to go into Demolition Man looking for a deeper meaning to the mysteries of life, frankly, you need to be hit in the forehead with a claw hammer. Because despite its paltry attempts at lofty aspiration, Demolition Man is not a thinking man’s movie. No, it’s a movie for leftover Chinese and multiple Gatorades, for pajama pants and unwashed hair. It’s four-Advils-and-a-large-coffee entertainment. And Saturday, at 8:00 PM on Cinemax (of course), it’s yours. Enjoy, you beautiful drunken louts.

TK can be found wandering aimlessly through suburban Massachusetts, wondering how the hell he got there while yelling at the kids on his lawn. You can find him wasting his time at Uncooked Meat.

Hangover Theater

Burrow Down and Blow Up the Outside World

Demolition Man / TK

Hangover Theater | April 11, 2008 |

TK Burton is the Editorial Director. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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