Saturday, 20 July 2013


It occurred to me recently that I hadn't seen Demolition Man, my favourite Sly movie, in quite a while so I checked Amazon for a cheap copy and found this collection for a tenner. As his 80' and 90's action movies were usually good fun (and I'd seen another in the set), I decided it was worth forking out a little more and it was still a very reasonable price for a blu-ray collection.

I watched them in the order they were in the box which was a good idea as each one was usually better than the one which preceded it.

Which meant I started out with the worst, Cobra directed by George Pan Cosmatos which should have been a warning in itself. That the romantic lead was played by Brigitte Nielsen should have been another. I'll spare you any details; suffice to say that it has to be among Stallone's worst films.

While he can carry a movie on his own and is a much better actor than he's often given credit for (if you haven't already, go watch Copland, seriously, get it now), his movies are more effective when he has a good actor as either villain or partner, something all the other films in this set prove.

Assassins is directed by respected veteran Richard Donner. (Curious coincidence: the night before watching Assassins, I'd watched Superman 2 the Richard Donner cut.) Here Stallone is an assassin at the top of his profession but up and coming and totally ruthless Antonio Banderas wants the top slot. Stallone ends up on the run with hacker and target Julianne Moore. Cue lots of action and fun for the viewer.

You get another good director, Andrei Konchalovsky, for Tango & Cash, a mismatched buddy-buddy tale of two cops framed, imprisoned, etc. Stallone plays the smart-suited sophisticate always on the phone to his broker and the best cop in town Tango. Kurt Russell plays the hairy laid-back Cash who is also the best cop in town. As you'd expect, plenty of action scenes, lots of bone-breaking violence, snappy banter. Why else would you want to watch this?

The Specialist (dir. Louis Llosa) has an excellent cast. Eric Roberts is the violent son of aging Cuban-American gang lord Rod Steiger (Rod Steiger!) who is aided (or suckered?) by psychotic hitman James Woods who does vile horrible characters better than anyone. Stallone is also a hitman, ex-CIA who uses explosives, hence the title and is approached by Sharon Stone who, as a child escaped the massacre of her family by Roberts. But is she to be trusted? This is just a terrific thriller full of action and double crosses and is probably the best in this box set. There's also a steamy sex in the shower scene between... oh come on, that must be obvious. And I have to say that a naked moisture-slicked Sharon Stone takes your breath (alright, my) breath away.

Finally, we come to the reason I bought this set in the first place and very much the odd one out, Demolition Man. True, it does qualify as an action-adventure but it's equally as valid to describe it as satirical science fiction. It's also the film which set Sandra Bullock on her swift rise to stardom.

Beginning in the then-near future of 1996, tough cop Stallone takes down manic psycho Wesley Snipes who then blames Stallone for allowing the deaths of innocents to take place and the authorities actually take the word of a known homicidal maniac over that of a cop! Result, both are cryogenically frozen, brainwashed while under, and woken periodically for a parole hearing. 

Cut to 32 years later when Snipes is woken up, escapes, and discovers he has a lot of knowledge about how this new society works. This new society is one fit for placid sheep, a peaceful, harmonious society where everything harmful is banned (meat, alcohol, weapons, so it's not all bad) and also swearing. It's so peaceful that the cops only have taser sticks and don't know how to fight. Naturally an unstoppable Snipes goes on the rampage, a direwolf among sheep, causing gleeful mayhem and horrifying the cops who haven't seen a report of MURDERDEATHKILL in twenty years. Feisty cop Sandra Bullock (excellent) suggests fighting fire with fire and so guess who is revived.

The society portrayed is so deliberately over the top bland and considerate and intensely annoying that even I would want to commit anti-social acts (property damage, I wouldn't want to actually hurt anyone).  The sheer contrast between what Stallone came from and what he finds is a great vehicle for humour and the film is often laugh out loud, not least when Bullock -"Let's blow this guy"- gets the vernacular wrong.

I could write a lot about this film because it has many excellent clever touches and raises issues which are worth discussing but it can also be annoyingly dumb at times. However, in case you haven't seen it I'll stop now avoid spoilers. And if you haven't seen it, you should because, uneven or not, it is really very good indeed.

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