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A modest box office hit, Demolition Man featured a soon-to-be mega-star Sandra Bullock as a future cop obsessed with the past who gets involved with former rebel office John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone). They must navigate through a very different world together to hunt a psychopath (Wesley Snipes) who appears to be on a mission from someone else pulling strings. Big, loud, and full of 90s actions, this remains a popular Stallone film, but how well do you know it? Here are 10 things you (probably) missed in Demolition Man.
In 1993, after John Spartan (Stallone) is accused of recklessness in the capture of crime lord and maniac Simon Phoenix (Snipes), they are frozen in the city of Los Angeles’ California Cryo-Penitentiary and sentenced to 70 years. This is overseen by the Assistant Warden, named William Smithers, played by Mark Colson (above).
In 2033, it’s time for Simon to have a parole hearing, so he’s woken and wheeled into an office where he finds he is possessed by great knowledge of language and skills. But when the restraints on his chair suddenly open and he becomes free, he makes good use of his situation and kills three people.
One of them turns out to be none other than Warden Smithers (now played by Andre Gregory). The guy spent his whole career in the cryo-prison, and if you look closely, is even wearing the same glasses.
After Simon escapes the prison, he steals a car and drives into the city, stopping at an automated personal information where a lightly depressed citizen is getting an ego boost. Phoenix pushes the man aside and begins tapping away at the computer as if possessed by some greater power. He becomes overwhelmed by a need to find and kill a man named Edgar Friendly (Denis Leary). To do that, he needs a gun, and so begins a search for where he can get armed in a place and time when guns are a thing of the past.
He asks the computer and the pleasing voice of the machine begins to explain what a gun is instead, displaying schematics, to which the impatient Simon says, “I don’t need a history lesson. Come on, Hal, where’s the guns?” ‘Hal’ is of course a reference to the Hal-9000 computer in the classic Stanley Kubrick science-fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey. There’s even a similar, large-lensed camera with a red light. Wonder if it can read lips, too.
A running gag in the film is the law forbidding the use of profanity, enforced by a series of units, often mounted on a wall, that dispense “tickets” for people who are caught using foul language, even saying the violator’s name. For example, when Spartan spews a few choice words, the machine says: “John Spartan, you are fined five credits for repeated violations of the Verbal Morality Statute.”
Putting aside the brilliantly-named statute, at one point, Lenina Huxley (Bullock), a fellow police officer, also comes under violation when she enters her office and swears, but if you listen carefully, it’s a little different from all the others. How? The machine spouts, “Lenina Huxley, you are fined one-half credit for a sotto voce violation of the Verbal Morality Statute. A soda what? A Sotta Voce is Italian, and means speaking in a low voice that involuntarily utters a truth. She had just been disciplined by her chief and under her breath had some select words to say about it once out of his ear shot. Nice touch by the filmmakers to throw in a bit smarts in the fun.
At the police station, inside Lenina’s office, the place is decorated with a large array of nostalgic mementoes of the previous century, such as movie props, posters, comic book, collectibles and more. On a shelf along one wall, there are two action figures, one of Batman and one of The Joker. They are in the likeness of the characters as portrayed in the 1989 film Batman starring Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader and Jack Nicholas as The Joker. Warner Bros. is the distributor of both that film and this one.
As Lenina spends more time with Spartan, watching him be the action hero she suspected he was, she becomes aroused in his presence and so invites him to up to her apartment. Once there, she quite freely asks him to have sex with her, to which he agrees, though sex in 2033 is a far off bit from when he had it last. As touching is no longer socially acceptable, partners engage in sexual pleasure via a device worn on their heads that stimulates the pleasure zone by eliciting graphic images of the other.
They start, and while John is reluctant at first, once it gets started he’s kind of drawn in. We see a long series of quick cuts of Lenina’s face in various sexually suggestive poses (see above), but suddenly, there are four very fast frames of a woman’s fully nude torso (no face) before back to Lenina. It’s surely a body double’s breasts (we won’t post it here), and while there is another nude scene with a different woman, this sneaky shot is really hard to miss and will get past you if you’re aren’t ready for it. We’re not sure how we feel about having been ready for it.
In Lenina’s apartment, which like her office, is packed with paraphernalia of artifacts from the 20th century, there are dozens upon dozens of posters, knick-knacks, gadgets, toys, and more all over the room. At one point, while she is talking with Spartan, just before inviting him to have that cyber sex, the two stop in front of a poster on the wall of former president John F. Kennedy. Right in front of him is a giant gumball/candy machine that just happens to look like a Saturn-type NASA rocket, which came to be under the inspiration of the famous Kennedy speech in which he announced the United States would be the first to send a man to the moon and return him back. It’s a clever little arrangement in the room and a nice homage.
Like most stories that feature a utopian society, there is a dirty underground where the less fortunate toil away, and with Demolition Man, that group of people is led by Edgar Friendly (Leary) who is only trying keep these people alive. When Spartan heads to the underground to look for Simon, he meets Friendly, who at first, isn’t so happy to see a cop below ground. With Friendly are his henchmen of sorts, and if you look fast, one of them is none other than future superstar Jack Black. He has no lines and is there for only a blink, but once you see him, you can’t believe you missed him before.
Simon Phoenix is a very bad buy, but there’s no denying how cool he looks, especially with that blonde hair style. What make him all the more unique is his heterochromia, a condition that causes each eye to have a different color. With Phoenix, his right eye is brown and his left is bright blue. Except . . .
No. When Simon emerges from the underground while being chased by Spartan, he climbs out of a manhole and suddenly, his eye colors have swapped sides. Guess it was opposite day.
During a car chase that sees Simon steal a cab as Spartan and Lenina take after him, they end up on a busy street where Spartan leaps from one car to the other. Now on top of Simon’s car, Phoenix tries to kill him with his machine gun, opening the doors and shouting, “Say hello to my little friend.” Does that sound familiar? It should.
As we saw earlier, Simon must know his movies. Here he quotes Al Pacino in the 1933 gangster film Scarface in a similar situation where he must fight for his life armed only with a big gun. Any bets on how my times the screenwriters wanted him to actually quote Rambo?
During a climatic fight scene between Simon and Spartan, they end up back at the cryogenic prison where Phoenix has a plan to let free a few more nasty bad guys. As Spartan tries to stop him, Simon grabs him with the hydraulic loading system that stores the cryo-cylinders. Simon uses the controls to tighten the finger-like grip on Spartan in hopes of crushing him and the movie make great effort to show the arms pressing with great agony into the cop. Well, sort of . . .
In the very next shot, Spartan is seen “trapped” in the clutches of the machine expect that the arms just shown squeezing into his chest are now nowhere even close to touching his body. He should be slipping right through to the floor but doesn’t and then a second later, they are right back to pinching him to near death. Blink and you’ll miss it.
What are your favorite moments in Demolition Man?