The year is 1996, and Los Angeles is in flames as riots spread across the city, lawlessness being a way of life for all too many these days, but for cop John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) he isn't going to allow the problem to stop him getting the major criminal he has been tracking all this time. That criminal is Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes), and now he has kidnapped a busload of passengers and taken them to this abandoned block which is set to blow if Phoenix lights the gasoline drums. Can Spartan save them in time and stop his enemy?
How about no, he can't? In fact he makes a right old mess of it, as the block explodes, the passengers are killed, and Phoenix, though arrested, survives to fight another day, that other day being in the year 2032. That was due to an innovation that somehow the real 1996 missed out on: cryogenically freezing the bad guys for decades to get them out of the way until a time can be found where they could be rehabilitated or released. Unfortunately for Spartan, he is convicted of the deaths of the passengers too, so in a "stupid laws preventing the cops from giving the perps what for" development, he is frozen too.
Thereafter we forget about him for a while and jump forward to that future year, whereupon the script employed what it thought would be a ripping wheeze: political correctness had finally taken over, so there was no swearing, no fatty foods, no drugs including alcohol, nicotine and caffeine, and most importantly no violence. Naturally all that goes tits up when Phoenix is defrosted and proceeds to wreak havoc on this brave new world, finding weapons at the museum - but there's a reason why he has been revived that consists of a conspiracy which reaches right to the top, namely Cocteau (Nigel Hawthorne), the head honcho of this peaceful society.
Of course, it's not as peaceful as all that, for there is an underclass who literally lives under the ground, and that's what Cocteau wishes to eradicate as they are an unwelcome reminder that his self-designed Los Angeles is not the answer to all the problems of the past. So you can see Demolition Man had pretensions to satire which gave rise to a goodly amount of silly comedy, a fact that has seen its cultural cachet drop from one of those curious beasts, a Sly Stallone megahit, to a bit of a joke in itself. Actually, it wasn't as bad as all that, it simply dated very quickly, and its design wore very badly - sort of a Japanese look which resembled something out of a sixties TV show.
As for the target of its satire, an interesting development in the film's enthusiasm with depicting a society where liberalism has resulted in more restrictions than ever had the effect of making extreme caution in your dealings with your fellow man (or woman) result in what looked like conservatism gone mad: mentioned in passing is that abortion is illegal, the poor are essentially outlawed, and sex has been replaced with a sterile computer game. Before this begins to sound too stuffy, it should be noted there were plenty of big, dumb action scenes in the film as well, where Stallone and Snipes evidently enjoyed themselves in portraying rivals. Sandra Bullock was a bright spot as a nostalgic policewoman who Spartan teams up with, but not so appreciated was the amount of product placement, dressed up as humour, that littered the movie, and neither, in a less overt instance, was Denis Leary's resorting to his standup routines for dialogue. But ending on a note of friendly compromise suggested a more goodnatured understanding than the actual future promised. Music by Elliott Goldenthal.