Demolition Man (1993), a recap (part 2 of 6)

Previously: In 1996, renegade cop on the edge who plays by his own rules John Spartan finally brought down flashy psycho criminal Simon Phoenix, only to be framed for killing 30 bus passengers when Simon’s building went boom. Convicted and sentenced to be frozen for 70 years, we cut to 2032 where things are… different and peaceful. And Simon Phoenix, recently thawed out, is up for parole.

Simon gets wheeled into Warden Smithers’ office, and his wheelchair transforms into a sort of vertical gurney and the prisoner’s limbs are firmly secured. Smithers figures this is going to be an easy one and sending Simon back to the ice tray is going to be simple. But nothing’s simple with Simon.

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Smithers starts talking and Simon in turn repeats everything in what sounds like Spanish, although it could also be Portuguese, or hell, even Esperanto. This pisses Smithers off, which just makes Simon smile. Smithers asks Simon if he has anything “fresh” to say on his own behalf and Simon does: he says, “Teddy bear!” This results in his shackles popping open. Simon kicks Smithers into his desk and then kung-fus one of the guards and all of a sudden he’s a lot better fighter than he was when John Spartan kicked his butt 36 years ago. One might argue this is bad writing. Me? The whole point was to let Spartan win before so he could get framed, so I don’t see it as a problem. Simon grabs what looks like some sort of injector gun off a guard’s belt and shoots him in the head with it. Smithers tries to escape, but Phoenix pushes the verti-gurney into him. He grabs the final guard by the throat, who asks Simon how he knew the password to the cuffs.

“I wish I knew,” Simon replies, and he looks honestly confused. Then he adds, “Simon says ‘die’!” And then he beats the crap out of the man, finishing him off with a kick to the chest. Um, I’m not sure if that would be enough to kill a fit human male, but whatever. Simon turns his attention to Smithers and gets a look on his face that implies he’s about to get, um, intimate with the warden. But no, he just wants to make sure they see eye to eye.

Simon uses Smithers’ bulbus oculi to open the doors. Back at police HQ, a “187” is reported, and I didn’t know what the hell that was back then, but in cop vernacular that means homicide. The police are as clueless as I was, so Lieutenant Huxley looks it up and finds out it means MDK, or “murder death kill”, and there hasn’t been one since 2010. Um… what? Really? I get that this is a utopian society, but there have been no crimes of passion in 22 years? Maybe it’s like Disney World, and any and all deaths are recorded as happening off site?

They get live video feed from the prison and see that the two MDKs are the prison guards; they’re about to be joined by a third, Smithers, who has a ruptured spleen, punctured lung, and oh yeah, a missing eye. Smithers dies and half the cops look like they’re about to cry, while Rob Schneider pukes. Chief Earle comes in and finds out there’s been three “unsanctioned life terminations”. Huxley recovers first and accesses the prison records to see the schedule, and Phoenix’s name comes up and the oldest dude in the room…

…recognizes Phoenix and says he’s “evil in a way you’ve never read about”. Huxley tries to look up Simon’s code, but according to the old cop Simon was put on ice before they started “lojacking everybody”. Huxley calls up Simon’s record: controlled substances, petty theft, assault, manslaughter, DUI, rape, murder one, smuggling, inciting to riot, counterfeiting, extortion, robbery, and all of that just from 1984. Well, they say the secret to success in business is diversification.

As Huxley scrolls through Simon’s rather long arrest record, another MDK is reported in the prison’s parking structure, and it’s a doctor. Huxley figures out Simon has stolen the doctor’s car and tracks it to the corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevard. The cops are all smiles as they assume the hard part’s been done. Earl assigns units to retrieve Phoenix and to proceed with “extreme assertiveness”. Oh my, the authorities might have to resort to employing a firm tone in the apprehension of this fugitive! Schneider and Officer Garcia give each other a long distance high five in a way that was hilarious then, but now? Um, pretty much SOP. The old cop, whose name is Zachary Lamb, just gives everyone an expression that could be considered bemused. Or resigned.

At Wilshire and Santa Monica, Simon gets out of the doctor’s three wheeled vehicle and strolls up to a kiosk.

Glad to see his fashion sense hasn’t improved. Did he mug a farmer or something?

Ahead of him at the kiosk, a stressed out dude is receiving some much needed affirmation from the computer because he doesn’t feel special. The dude sounds like half the people desperate for likes and retweets today. Phoenix knocks around the guy a bit and sends him on his way, then he accesses the computer. Phoenix’s fingers dance across the control panel, much to his surprise, and in almost no time at all he’s called up a personnel file: Friendly, Edgar, the guy in charge of the subterranean graffiti artists. Phoenix begins to hear a voice in his head suggesting he has a job to do, and someone to kill. Simon zones out for a bit, then comes back to his (so-called) senses and looks up guns. The computer starts to give him a bit of background about guns but Simon doesn’t want a “god damn” history lesson, which earns him his first fine. He tells the computer “fuck you” and that gets him another ticket.

Just then, San Angeles’s finest roll up. One of the cops has a device in his hand that he requests advice from. Yeah, that sounds a lot like a classic Alexa interaction to me. The device suggests the cop should tell “the maniac” to lie down using a firm voice. The cop does so and Phoenix mocks him. The cop replies to the device, “The maniac has responded with a scornful remark,” and damn, I just love the dialogue. It’s so hard to predict future fashions and slang, and here, they just said screw it and used very precise language, as a kind of anti-slang. And it works. The device tells the cop to add the words “Or else.” He does, and Phoenix doesn’t like it. He overrides the anti-graffiti system on the wall (ah-ha! There was more than one reason for that scene earlier), and the cop standing in front of it…

…gets a bigger shock than Stallone did when Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot bombed.

Phoenix then proceeds to take apart the other five cops through a combination of badass martial arts and mockery. Back in the control room, Rob Schneider watches in horror and turns to the others and says, “We’re police officers; we’re not trained to handle this kind of violence!” And I gotta say, Rob is being perfectly utilized here. Phoenix smashes a police car windshield and pulls a cop out and throws him one handed with almost comedic ease, and I can’t tell if that’s because Simon is now super-strong for some reason, or the novice director has trouble with maintaining tone.

Phoenix shoves one of the cop’s billy clubs into the kiosk’s camera and it appears the things are shock sticks that deliver an electrical charge. It blows out cameras for six blocks around, but Huxley finds one that works and zooms in. Phoenix shoves the shock stick into a cop car’s battery and the vehicle blows up real good. Sadly, if the cop car is anything like modern electric ones, it’ll burn for a week.

Cut to a conference room where the late, great Nigel Hawthorne is holding a meeting. Hawthorne was a prolific actor, and one of my favorite roles of his was as George III in The Madness of King George. Here, he’s heading up a video conference call.

Okay, not the way I would have predicted video conferencing to happen in 2032, but I guess the budget couldn’t handle Princess Leia-style holograms, especially not after the pyrotechnics seen earlier. Hawthorne explains how all their current problems are due to Edgar Friendly, and oh damn, that triggers a memory: the voice in Simon’s head is this guy! Man, he really has it in for Denis Leary. As he exposits how these “scraps” are terrorists (and in a world with zero murders in 20 years, I guess the bar got lowered), he’s interrupted by…

Oh. My. God. It’s Otho from Beetlejuice! Glen Shadix, man. What a talent. And looking at his IMDb and Wiki pages, what a terrible tragedy. Why do the funniest people seem to have the saddest stories?

Glen calls Hawthorne “Doctor Cocteau” and explains that a “cryo con” has “effected self release”. Did I mention how much I’m loving the dialogue? I did? It bears repeating. Glen’s character’s name is “Associate Bob”, but hell, I’m just going to keep calling him Otho. Otho is told by Cocteau to calm himself down and put in a call to Captain Earle. Before I move on, I just want to say I also dig the Asian style fashion here. In the ’90s, it felt like the Japanese were buying, well, everything. The same year Demolition Man came out, Wesley Snipes appeared in Rising Sun with Sean Connery, which was about corporate espionage and murder centered around a Japanese mega-conglomerate planting roots in Los Angeles. Hell, it went back years earlier to Die Hard and Nakatomi Plaza. Until the financial bubble burst for the Japanese, it really did feel like they were just going to own the entire U S of A sooner or later, so white folk dressing in Japanese fashion was both a little tongue in cheek and maybe poked a little fun at our collective Asio-phobia.

Cocteau is now video conferencing with Captain Earle, who expresses his horror at witnessing Simon Phoenix dismantling six of his guys, though at the moment he doesn’t know just how many of them became MDKs. Cocteau tells Earle he’s got every confidence in him to do everything to track the criminal down. Earle signs off and Cocteau smirks into a cup of tea.

Back at police HQ, Earle has zero clues on how to do his job. Huxley wisely asks old cop Zachary Lamb how Phoenix got busted in the first place. He explains there was a twelve state manhunt, satellite surveillance, and a segment on Unsolved Mysteries. None of it worked and it finally took one guy to bring him down: John Spartan. The gang watches a montage of videos of Spartan being, well, Spartan, and taking names and kicking asses. The best one is when John has just rescued a little girl, and a reporter asks how he can justify blowing up a seven million dollar mall when the girl’s ransom was only $25,000. The girl chimes in with, “Fuck you, lady!” Earle is disgusted by the videos, but Huxley points out they could reinstate Spartan. Zachary backs her up, pointing out what an old fashioned criminal needs is an old fashioned cop.

Cut back to the cryo prison, where John Spartan is thawed out despite Earle’s misgivings. But it seems the police charter allows for John to be given a limited parole and reinstatement as a cop. Damn, that’s convenient. Huxley starts explaining to John that the year is 2032, and he asks how long he’s been under. I guess long hibernation impairs math skills. Spartan asks about his wife, and Huxley explains she was killed in 2010 in “the earthquake”. It’s a nice touch. John mentions his daughter, and I’m wondering if scenes involving his wife and kid were cut, because having those two at the sentencing at the beginning of the movie would have made for a really dramatic moment.

Earle cuts off the history lesson and John is told Simon Phoenix is on the loose, which immediately catches John’s attention. After hearing how awesomely peaceful the future is and how ill equipped the cops are to handle a guy who’s killed eleven people so far, John asks for a cigarette and finds out they’re now illegal. And so is alcohol, caffeine, contact sports, meat, gasoline, non-educational toys, and anything spicy. But porn’s still legal? Whew! Spartan also discovers bad language gets you fined. John’s more than a little pissed that he’s been thawed out to go after Phoenix, because he spent two years chasing him down and got convicted for his trouble. But the only other option is going back in the ice box. John’s response?

Next time: John finds out just how batshit insane the future is, and he and Simon Phoenix have a reunion!

Multi-Part Article: Demolition Man (1993), a recap

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  • Michael Weyer

    Actually, there was a scene later in the film (spoiler alert) where Spartan meets his now grown daughter amid the rebels and happy she’s thinking for herself not part of this weird society.

    Folks today don’t get it but yes, back in early ’90s, a serious belief Japan was about to dominate the world with stories abounding on “They’ll have a working Star Wars system in two years and own Hawaii and California in a decade.” Then they enter that “Lost Decade” that tumbles them down from power.

    • PhysUnknown

      Not in the theatrical cut. Is there a director’s cut out there?

      • Michael Weyer

        I think on YOu Tube….

  • all of a sudden he’s a lot better fighter than he was when John Spartan kicked his butt 36 years ago

    I won’t spoil it, but the movie does explain this later.

    • Thomas Stockel

      Oh I know the answer too.