Friday, March 21, 2014

#DoubleFeature - Demolition Man/Last Action Hero

Stallone. Schwarzenegger. Two action film icons.

Let's check out the true last action flicks from the 1990s...

Time for yet another DoubleFeature, this time I'm gonna take you back to the past.

I used to be such a huge action film fan. But over the past decade the genre kind of suffered from and overuse of both CGi to help directors bring to the screen crazier and crazier spectacular screenplays and grittier films trying to outdo each others. It seems - at least to me - that action films but lost their sense of fun and while trying to get more realistic lost a sense of over-the-top that really sold these crazy scenarios.

I mean, raising the stakes every time. just take a look at the Die Hard franchise with a John McClane now fighting all over countries over past confined settings which feature both more tight stories and a better sense of pacing/storytelling/tension/whatever you want.

'Going a bit out of topic here, I digress.

Anyways, let's go back to 1980s/1990s action movies when watching a single guy defeat entire armies and blow up whole headquarters seemed a lot more normal - in the tone of these films.

The year is 1993. These were Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger big summer hits.

Movie: Demolition Man
Directed by Marco Brambilla 
Release date 1993
Genre Science-fiction/Action film
Country USA

The directing debut of Marco Brambilla who has sadly done so little since its release, Demolition Man is a 1993 scifi/action film.

It's the story of two men displaced in time, and... wait, no. Not really. You see if follows two characters cryogenically frozen and finally reawaken in the future, but the movie kind of brushes this off for a more spectacular tale of two badass against each other.

The film begins with a reckless LAPD police officer, Sgt. John Spartan. Due to his nonsensical methods and lack of restrains in the field he has been nicknamed the "Demolition Man".

This time he was finally able to catch on the sociopath and insane criminal Simon Phoenix (played by Wesley Snipes). But John crossed the line once more on his all-out war against this madmen. Simon Phoenix executed the innocent hostages, but was finally caught by our hero.

The film taking place in the "future" of 1996 (!), they decide to both experiment on these two men and put them in suspended animation for the duration of their penance.

Now, 36 years later (the year 2032), someone gets Simon Phoenix' sentence mysteriously cut short and let the criminal loose on the streets.

Only... the city, now called San Angeles, changed a lot during all that time. The society became ultra conservative (so I imagine this is a dark possible future that might still come true on day, from the looks of things..).

They get the never-seen in ages code 187, reports of a MDK. "MURDER DEATH KILL". The SAPD can't deal with something like this. So they decide the next best option is to get one crazy to deal with another.

They get John Spartan back...

Thing is, the future ain't big enough for the both of them. 

It's the story of two polar opposite men. And the destruction that comes from every single one of their clashes, destroying half of the city each time, in each time!

Both Stallone and Snipes are perfect in their role. Stallone embracing the ultra macho violent badass hero of old, and Wesley Snipes playing is over-the-top part at best.

They originally wanted Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal for these characters.. And as much as I love JCVD, I can't imagine the muscle from Brussels in this role.

Some interesting casting tidbits. Stallone gets a pretty cute sidekick in the form of Lenina Huxley played by Sandra Bullock. She's a huge "vintage" dork in this film and attempts to impress our hero with failed catchphrases and expressions from our times. Always loved her in this role. We also have Benjamin Bratt as Officer Alfredo Garcia, but he doesn't get much to do than play second sidekick to the principal sidekick character. Strangely enough there's also Rob Schneider as well in a forced cameo, of course. Even a quick early apparition by Jack Black. And finally Jesse Ventura also makes a short appearance.

"Mellow greetings!"

The futuristic utopia hides an actual dystopia beneath its surface. While the bridge between rich and poor people grew bigger over the decades, people were forced to hide underground.

I like how San Angeles appears at first an apparently normal and prude society at first glance - cursing is not allowed - but was actually totally taken over by greed and corporations. The quest for money simply made people forget what's more important.

The rebels fight for change.. and are forced to steal food to survive.

Speaking of which Taco Bell turned into fine cusine!

Thankfully Sly will change all that comes the end of the film. 21st Century style!

It's still a very enjoyable action flick to this day. Its over-the-top nature hides a tale that is still almost relevant to this day.

A cult classic.

And let's not forget the three seashells! I still wonder how you use those to this day...

The music was composed by Elliot Goldenthal. It's great. Epic. And action packed.

Just like the film. Great solid directing, an effective sense of pacing and cuts.

Finally, to note, a couple video games were developed, based on the film. Such as a 16-bit action tie-ins and the infamous 3DO FMV title.

I give it:
3 / 3 Films!

Movie: Last Action Hero 
Directed by John McTiernan
Release date 1993
Genre Action comedy film
Country USA

Directed by Die Hard creator John McTiernan, who made a plethora of other classics such as Predator, The Hunt for Red October and Die Hard with a Vengeance, Last Action Hero is another 1993 film. This one being more of an action comedy film on the surface.

But actually a meta-film, a big tribute and parody of the entire action film genre from the late 1980s/early 90s! The film was written by 90s action movie expert Shane Black.

What appears as yet another traditional Schwarzenegger and action films is actually a big play on the whole genre and usual clichés.

Last Action Hero begins with our "real" hero, a young kid named Danny Madigan (Austin O'Brien).

Danny loves blockbuster films. He has already seen "Jack Slater III" several times and cannot wait for the release of the all-new "Jack Slater IV". In fact the only think he can think about lately is action films, daydreaming at school and whatnot.

He's friends with a local projectionist of an old classic theater. Our projectionist tells Danny if he's able to make it that night, he might let him get an early sneak peak of the film before the official release date!

The old man gives him a gold "magic" ticket just for this occasion (because... Hollywood?!). As Danny was enjoying the very badass opening of a very badass film... something... magical... happened. Danny saw a stick of dynamite actually fly through the screen!!

Once Danny woke up, he was in the actual film, in the backseat of Jack Slater himself!!! How did this happen?!

Last Action Hero follows Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of this fictive action hero protagonist, Jack Slater.

Long story short, his main foe Benedict (Charles Dance) is able to get his hands on the magic ticket! And decides to get out! And then starts assembling a bunch of villains from across different pictures to get at the real life Arnold Schwarzenegger - Arnold Schwarzenegger the actor!

For this Benedict teams up with Jack Slater IV's main villain, the Ripper! And Death!!

Last Action Hero is a great film, a parody that is sometimes actually pretty smart for such a film. With a Schwarzie at the top of his game. Back when the man used to be an icon bigger than life, fresh off Terminator 2.

Even its reputation nowadays (both of the film and Schwarzenegger's) is kind of mocked - for all the wrong reasons in my eyes - it's a great action film. And a fantastic comedy as well!

The film plays on what made Schwarzenegger famous at the time, on the first place. Random explosions. Henchmen dying left and right, by the dozen!

Maybe the film feels like it runs a bit too long at times.

But decades later nowadays it still feels fresh and unique.

Mocking the "hero" of "action films", Jack Slater truly is the Last Action Hero.

Probably one of my favorite bits of acting from Schwarzie, never taking himself too seriously like later in his career. With a wink at the audience.

Once the story moves to the real world, we even get some great moments, some more serious moments but also poking fun at conventions (breaking windows isn't that easy...) and the genre.

A very enjoyable kickass film while playfully playing and mocking tropes of these kind of action films.  The film has a sort of everlasting charm in my eyes.

Last Action Hero also features several cameos both in and outside the "picture". From people Schwarzenegger knowns and his entourage. Tina Turner, Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, MC Hammer, Chevy Chase, Timothy Dalton, James Belushi, Little Richard...  We also get Danny DeVito as the voice of the cartoon cop Whiskers. And let's not forget the hilarious alternate take of Sylvester Stallone as the Terminator on a movie poster and also Jean-Claude Van Damme too brief cameo.

The film also has a fantastic epic score both with the likes of AC/DC, Megadeth or Aerosmith alongside the score from composer Michael Kamen.

Like Demolition Man it also got a video game adaptation, but let's just said the less said on that front, the better...

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Films!

Overall, I have to give Demolition Man the edge between these two simultaneous 1993 releases.

While I personally adore Last Action Hero since I first watched it way back when, I have to recognize it's probably the weaker one. Both treating the genre with a similar tongue in cheek approach, Last Action Hero doesn't keep the same quality through the entire film. Its meta-commentary falls kind of short at time, when it ends up following the very same tropes it tries to mock (what with Danny turning into an annoying sidekick, it gets repetitive very fast on that aspect). Despite a Schwarzie doing what he does best.

Demolition Man on the other hand is a very enjoyable entertaining action film, playing with its action hero out of his element, and yet at the end it still maintains a sort of playful tone and banter. And the very fun utopian/dystopian scifi world certainly helps. A great experience through and though.

Two great classics, both highly recommended for both fans of the genre and - I'm sure - both probably already ranks amongst the favorites of any Stallone or Schwarzenegger fan.

That's all for this time's DoubleFeature!

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