Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Demolition Man.”
The Movie: “Demolition Man”
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock
Director: Marco Brambilla
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A police officer is brought out of suspended animation in prison to pursue an old ultra-violent nemesis who is loose in a non-violent future society.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 62 percent
Brown: I no longer fear hell, because the JOE-DOWN has lived it.
Thanks to Adam Sandler Month, the JOE-DOWN was, no joke, on the verge of ending. We put ourselves through hell, and this comes from a duo of 30-somethings that sat through multiple seasons of “Fuller House.”
But, we survived. We’re changed. We’re somehow more jaded. But we’re here.
And after surviving Sandler, we needed to TREAT OURSELVES!
How do the Joes do that? With stupid ‘90s action movies.
In this case, it’s a stupid ‘90s action movie where commercial jingles rule the airwaves and Taco Bell is the only fast food restaurant around. If you have IBS, I hope you know how to use the three seashells.
I did not see “Demolition Man” before this week. But just know that by virtue of no Adam Sandler, I will be recommending this movie.
So while I pay off my fines for swearing, give me your thoughts, Froemming.
Froemming: I saw this in the 90s, when it came out on home video. The only things that really stood out in my memory was Wesley Snipes’ ridiculous hair and the three seashells used to wipe one’s butt after a visit to Taco Bell.
My first thought, when the movie heads on into the future was this: This is what conservatives thought Obama’s America was going to be in 2008.
Yeah, this movie dances dangerously close to the crazy right-wing lunacy of “Con-Air,” minus the flowing locks of Nic Cage. But after a month of Happy Madison (REDACTED) right into my brain, this was a welcome relief. Though we do have Rob Schneider, that son-of-a-bitch, in this movie.
Now Brown, I am going to rob some comically easy-to-get guns from a museum. Why don’t you kick this off?
Brown: So we open in Hollywood, circa 1996 where, apparently, the city’s on flame with rock n’ roll… or, you know, anarchy.
Froemming: Maybe it is because they built that city on rock and roll?
Brown: There’s only one Jefferson Starship song I’ll allow on the JOE-DOWN, just because it reminds me of “Wet Hot American Summer.”
Back to “Demolition Man,” seriously, is this a 1996 where Skynet took over? Does that make “Demolition Man” canon in the “Terminator” universe?
Here, we see the LAPD on the hunt of some bad guys. And leading the charge is Sgt. John Spartan (Stallone).
… Wait, his name in this is John Spartan?! (REDACTED) really? They had to have taken that name from MST3k mocking “Space Mutiny.”
Froemming: Could have been worse. They could have named him Max Power.
Brown: I was seriously snickering any time Spartan’s name was brought up. Also, any time that Spartan yelled the name Phoenix while in pursuit of our antagonist. Were you like me and did a double-take every time “PHOENIX” was yelled to make sure Stallone wasn’t saying “PENIS?”
Froemming: Honestly, everything sounds the same when Stallone screams it. It’s one giant “AARRGHGYYUUU” to my ears.
Max Power John Spartan has found Phoenix in an abandoned building, which checks off another mark on my “This Is A Heavy Metal Music Video” Bingo card. And, I was so happy to not have seen a wild animal pee on a teenager, or Colin Quinn pretend to poop with an ice cream machine, that I just rolled with the stupid insanity of this movie.
See, Spartan is a loose canon, like every action movie cop in history. So, he breaks the law to enforce the law at times, which is the most American thing I can think of. And he blows up this building, where Phoenix has hidden hostages. What hostages, you are asking? (REDACTED) you, those hostages! The ones barely mentioned in this whole scene.
Brown: Yeah, apparently Phoenix and co. hijacked a bus with 30 people on it? With Sandra Bullock in this movie, is “Speed” a part of this universe? I think we’re just living in the world of “Last Action Hero” where all the movies are part of a shared universe.
See? Stallone and Schwartzenegger had this shared universe (REDACTED) figured out well before Marvel.
Froemming: Since Sandra Bullock is in this, and I am the resident “Seinfeld” fan, here we go:
From now on, I will refer to “Speed” as “The Bus.”
Well, Spartan ends up killing all the hostages, which holy (REDACTED). That is something out of the legendary “McBane” movie.
And because this is fiction, Spartan as a cop is held accountable for his responsibilities. And he is cryogenically frozen as punishment, thus making this punishment not an actual punishment since he is just frozen unconscious for his sentence, not getting into gang fights over fruit cocktail like a normal prisoner.
It is more like a long-ass nap.
And the homicidal antagonist gets this too. So, in this 1996 there really isn’t much punishment for breaking the law. You just end up like Ted Williams and Walt Disney’s head.
Brown: Also, I didn’t get why the LAPD is taking the word of Simon Phoenix about all the hostages dying instead of listening to John Spartan (snickers). They are quick to be like “You’ve gone too far, Spartan!” instead of thinking “Why are we listening to the homicidal crime lord here?”
And yeah, you’re right about how the justice system works here. Isn’t the point of prison to serve your time and rehabilitate the prisoner? How is one rehabilitated when cryogenically frozen? Yeah, they make up some thing about using subliminal suggestion or some bunk but criminals get to live an extra 40 years because of this?
I’m all for prison reform but this is just moronic. Though to live in a world where Rob Schneider is around you and Dennis Leary is a revolutionary does sound like hell.
Froemming: Is it me, or has Dennis Leary always looked like he is 45 years old. He must be in his 20s here, and he looks like he is in his 40s. He is probably in his 60s now, still looks 40. Maybe those cigarettes he is always smoking did this to his biology.
So, we travel to the future of 2032, where LA has merged into one giant city of San Angeles, there is no crime, everyone is a wuss and somehow a convicted murderer is unfrozen for a parole hearing.
Again, prison is about rehabilitation. How does that even happen if you are frozen the whole time? NONE OF THIS MAKES SENSE!
Brown: Do you think Phoenix’s lawyer was Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer?
Also, how is a crime lord like Phoenix paroled before John Spartan?
Froemming: Spartan killed them hostages. So, you know…
Brown: Yeah, but we see later that Phoenix has a rap sheet longer than some suburban mom’s intro to an online recipe that rambles on about how much their kiddos love their bland-ass meatballs.
We learn something is afoul when Phoenix, who’s been frozen for 36 years, knows the safe word… err, password the jailors use to break the shackles and goes on to massacre an entire prison block. Phoenix even tears a man’s eyeball out and sticks it on a pen to get out of the jail. And here we thought that Heath Ledger’s Joker using the pencil trick was brutal; Wesley Snipes did that (REDACTED) 15 years beforehand.
Froemming: And we see how the future is once a madman is on the loose: Liberals have destroyed everything by making it peaceful, so everyone is a wimp — including the police. Dick Cheney is rolling in his grave.
I assume Dick Cheney sleeps in a coffin. That adds up to me.
Phoenix heads to an outdoor doodad (technical term) that tells people they are great, to boost their confidence. It is pretty much the opposite of the suicide booth from “Futurama.”
Well, Phoenix somehow picked up computer skills while frozen, because he starts hacking into all sorts of things, searching for his target (Leary) and what happened to guns.
And when the fuzz arrive, well, he pretty much kicks all their asses, because these cops are more like Brown and I: Office workers. Not peacekeepers and whatnot.
Brown: They probably thought they were arresting tax evader Wesley Snipes, not serial killer Simon Phoenix.
With the cops disposed of with comical ease, the San Angeles police decide that in order to catch a psycho, they need a psycho themselves. That’s… terrible logic, but sure, I’m aboard for this ride. It’s time to thaw out John Spartan (snickers).
It went something like this.
Froemming: Plus, everyone knows to pull off any sort of job, you need The Brains, The Looks, The Wildcard, The Muscle and the useless Chick.
But this movie goes against a tried and true way of doing things. So we get the detached, probably sociopathic loner in (chuckles) John Spartan.
Now, a brief intro to one of my teenage crushes, Sandra Bullock as Lieutenant Lenina Huxley. She is a cop who seems bored that she never has to, you know, police anything. And she is obsessed with the 1990s like how hipsters of today are obsessed with the 1980s.
Brown: We’re kind of obsessed with ‘80s and ‘90s movies. Are we hipsters?!
Froemming: I don’t remember saying you could interrupt me! And yes, we kinda are. Except we are not smug about it. In fact, I am kinda ashamed of that. Let’s not talk about this anymore, you’re making me uncomfortable.
Now, the most comical thing Huxley has is a movie poster for “Lethal Weapon 3,” which of all the questions this movie raises from criminal justice to seashells to virtual sex and the pants ruining it probably does (we’ll get to that later), the “Lethal Weapon 3” poster is the most baffling thing in this whole movie to me. I mean, it is probably the weakest link in that franchise. Joe Pesci is on the poster. Nobody seems to remember anything about that movie. Why is it there?
Brown: My favorite part of this movie is when they’re discussing thawing out John Spartan (giggling) and the show a clip where he apparently caused massive collateral damage to save one girl’s life. The girl’s reaction: Priceless.
Froemming: I just saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers poster in her office. (REDACTED) you, Huxley.
Brown: When Spartan is thawed out, random exposition gets thrown in about how his wife was killed in “The Big One of 2010.”
Spartan also asks about his daughter but never gets an explanation over what happened to her.
After watching this movie, I’m 100 percent convinced that Huxley is John Spartan’s daughter. And that’s going to be EXTREMELY problematic later. It’s such a weird thing in the movie to never resolve.
Froemming: Oh yeah, they bring it up one more time when Huxley offers to look the daughter up and Spartan (chuckles) says no. I mean, it’s only been 36 years. Why rush to see your child?
Also, they filmed a reunion between Spartan and the daughter and it was cut from the movie, per IMDb. So, just remember, this movie at one point was much longer and much more confusing than what we actually got.
So Spartan is unfrozen, and is already has a prickly relationship with Chief George Earle, who is mad he unfroze this cop to catch a madman for reasons? He keeps calling Spartan (giggles) a primate, which joke’s on you pal what with evolution and all.
And Spartan goes to the bathroom and comes back confused. Instead of toilet paper, they have three seashells. Which is obvious how to use: Two shells to pull the stuff out, one to wipe. At least that’s how Stallone once explained it. All I know is it looks painful, especially if someone has hemorrhoids.
Brown: So wait, you use the two shells to pull stuff out? I’m not going to put a couple shells together like a Pringles duck bill to try and pull poop out. Also, what if you have a low-fiber diet and you need more than three seashells?
Froemming: Funny you should mention that, because it is explained around this time what is legal and what isn’t. And it seems like the only food people really eat is heavy on the fruits and veggies, which would help with that fiber issue.
Brown: OK, but what if you have IBS or Crohn’s disease? are you allowed just three shells? What happens in the case of diarrhea and you’re going every few minutes? Do they sell disposable seashells or do you have to clean them after each use?
I have so many unresolved questions that we still, in 2020, do not have answers to!
Anyway, the future cops think Phoenix is going to start his drug empire again, but Spartan says “maybe he will get a gun” because, you know, you better start small in the crime world. Can’t just become a drug kingpin without a gun.
But there are no guns. Except at the museum. Which they say the guns are heavily secured.
This is a lie.
The guns are behind some glass. Is it hard for Phoenix to get these?
Yes, he just tosses some schmuck through this hilariously easy-to-break glass and now he has guns in a gunless world.
This is what Charlton Heston warned us about. Except if the guns were actually just destroyed, they wouldn’t in fact be a problem here. But logic be damned, this is a Stallone movie!
Brown: So once this part of the movie passes, guns are just around all willy-nilly. But where are they getting ammo? I don’t recall seeing a cache of bullets just sitting around in this museum.
Also, Simon Phoenix can’t kill the spiritual leader of San Angeles, Dr. Raymond Cocteau, who appears to be the man behind Phoenix’s parole with the goal of killing a revolutionary of the underground Scraps, Edger Friendly (Leary).
John Spartan. Simon Phoenix. Edgar Friendly. Was this movie’s script given names from an internet generator?
Also, why is every person in this world dressed as either a member of the Vatican or a Japanese geisha?
Froemming: I think it is a class thing we get a bit about toward the end, but I am sure was mostly cut due to not wanting to upset the snowflakes who would go on to watch Fox News 24/7.
Also, there had to be an easier way to take out Leary here than reanimate a homicidal maniac. Like, I dunno, poison the food scraps they steal? Beat him to death with an iron pipe? Let the smokes do their thing naturally? Literally thousands of ways to do this easier, but screw it, let’s throw the city into chaos for no real reason.
Brown: Saved from a maniac with Dennis Rodman hair that laughs like Captain Holt after he has a marshmallow for the first time, Cocteau offers a fancy meal to Spartan.
That fancy restaurant is, of course, Taco Bell, because they were the winner of the Franchise Wars.
Screw anymore “Star Wars” movies. Forget flicks like “1916.” I want a Franchise Wars movie.
Froemming: Let me clue you in on something, as someone who saw the Cola Wars unfold in the late 1980s, you don’t.
Brown: Don’t tell me how to live. You’re not my dad!
While this black-tie dinner at Taco Bell is taking place, we see the Scraps come out of the underground like a bunch of CHUDs to find food. This leads to a scrap with the cops that leaves Huxley all hot and bothered to the point where she offers to have sex with John Spartan (chuckles).
Now, what’s sex like in 2036? Apparently, it requires headware and is a visual nightmare out of “Jacob’s Ladder.” Apparently the swapping of bodily fluids is forbidden in this time.
Now, what’s the most disgusting sexual term thrown around in this scene, Froemming: fluid transfer; boning; the wild mambo; or the hunka-chunka?
Froemming: You mean…
Also, I think you also need another pair of pants for after. Because from what I see, this is simulated sex, but the stuff has to go somewhere, right? Do they just…in their pants….I mean….no, you know what? I am not going any further on this.
Brown: I think John Spartan had VR sex with his daughter. This movie is some “Old Boy” (REDACTED).
Froemming: So Spartan cuts this weird, “Game of Thrones”-vibe intercourse short and storms off. And he sees what I can only describe as amazing direction and camera work for security video showing Phoenix not killing the religious leader guy who gives me some Scientology-level creepy vibes. Like, Travolta-OT levels of creepiness. This raises some red flags. As it should. But he waits until the next day to look into this HUGE piece of information.
I am starting to suspect Spartan is not a very good cop here.
Brown: John Spartan (cackling) is pure ‘90s, man: All balls, no brain. Who needs police work and deduction when you can blow (REDACTED) up. A man named John Spartan (pffff) does NOT do paperwork.
To pull off this assassination of Dennis Leary, who is, according to public record, an asshole, Phoenix negotiates the release of other cryogenically-frozen prisoners. One of these prisoners will be future Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, who ends up shooting Cocteau. It’s Jesse Ventura: He doesn’t think you’ve lived until you hunted man.
It wasn’t the first time our former governor confused his life with that of John Rambo.
Brown: I will say this about “Demolition Man”: Wesley Snipes is going 1,000 percent in this movie and I love him for it. And you can tell the dude is having a blast making this remarkibly stupid movie.
Froemming: Oh yeah, Snipes is fun as hell in this. His out-of-tune singing of the National Anthem, his hamming it up at every chance, his avoiding paying taxes, it is all great here.
Now with Cocteau dead, nobody knows how society will continue on, because that is how people in a cult see the world. But John Spartan (snicker) ain’t no dumb follower, and he plays by his own rules, hence why he was imprisoned for murdering those hostages. So they head into the seedy underworld of the Scraps who are lead by Dennis Leary, something that will never make any sense to me. Look at him. He’s just such an asshole. He also has that ratty facial hair that teenage boys grow out and that I silently mock whenever I see it.
And here, Spartan can finally get a beer and a burger. Sure, it is a rat burger, but beggars can’t be choosers in this world, and frankly I am sure he had worse at that Taco Bell earlier in the film.
Brown: Hey man, don’t do Taco Bell wrong like that. Hell, I’d be all for us getting a Taco Bell sponsorship.
Hit us up, TB. I’d love to tell the people about the steak Quesarito.
Brown: Hey man, I will bow down to corporate sponsors.
So yeah, Spartan and Huxley find Edger Friendly and he goes on a personal freedom tirade that you’d hear in any Dennis Leary standup and any talking head from Fox News.
Froemming: To be fair, Leary is much smarter than the talking heads at Fox News.
Brown: He also plays a ghost dad in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” so… advantage Fox?
Froemming: Anywho, Spartan (hehehehe) sees these people as victims of society, not the enemy. He also is just there to kill Phoenix, because that’s how he rolls. We also learn that Phoenix killed those hostages in ’96 before Spartan crushed their remains with brick and mortar, which I mean doesn’t make it any less cruel and irresponsible to me.
Brown: To try and catch some of Phoenix’s men, Startan and Huxley give chase in an old ‘70 Chevy that somehow survived “The Big One of 2010.” I’m calling B.S. because even if that car survived, there’s no way the gas in that car is any good. This does not seem like the kind of future where gas is plentiful since gas is probably bad for us.
Eventually, Spartan and Huxley hunt down Phoenix to the cryo-prison and Spartan… knocks out Huxley because god forbid in 2036 a woman helps bring down a crime lord in a (REDACTED) Sly Stallone movie! Hopefully Spartan gets a truck out of it!
So a factoid I won’t let go of: Phoenix was trying to thaw out Jeffrey Dahmer and was stoked to meet the dude. Simon Phoenix is a FAN of Jeffrey Dahmer. Good god, movie!
Froemming: You say that like it is a weird thing.
Anyway, we get the final fight here, where Spartan is stuck in a claw like a toy in one of those arcade machines where you nab dolls from with a pincher. And Phoenix is, you guessed it, Kung Fu Fighting!
Snipes is apparently a black belt in something, so he actually did a lot of these stunts. Too bad those martial arts skills didn’t teach him the value of doing his taxes.
Well, the fight is filled with really bad, very early GCI stuff. It has aged horribly. But Spartan manages to pull a Mortal Kombat fatality on Phoenix by freezing him and knocking his head off his body.
Brown: Sub-Zero was always my favorite “Mortal Kombat” character so I was OK with this death. Sly’s one-liner “Heads up” was really lame, but the idea was solid. It was confusing to see this happen when John Spartan (hahaha) pull off this Fatality while wearing a “Street Fighter” beret.
So the day is saved, the Scraps emerge from the underground to a rousing speech by Spartan about working and living together. And John Spartan makes out with his daughter.
And, the final line in this movie is about the absurdity of the three seashells.
I SO want Sly to explain this to me before one of us dies. But until then, let’s get to recommendations before our rat burgers get cold.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: Oh my god, yes. This was the stupid kind of action movie I needed in my life after Sandler month.
Froemming: Yup. This was a breath of fresh air after Happy Madison threw me into a very dark period of my life.