Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes go head to head in this sci-fi actioner from the early 90s. It also features Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt, Denis Leary, Nigel Hawthorne, Bob Gunton and, sigh, Rob Schneider.
Stallone plays a supercop, John Spartan, who has been tracking a psychotic maniac, Simon Phoenix (Snipes) and their confrontation at the beginning of the film leads to them both being arrested and sentenced to a cryo-prison, where they will undergo . When Phoenix is roused in the 2030s for a parole hearing, he learns pretty quickly he’s been re-programmed, but with all manner of violent information that will give him a commanding presence in this new, pacifist and controlled, if clean, world.
No one in this time, including the police, is capable of handling Phoenix, so they revive Spartan to go after him, and while John attempts to settle in to this strange new world (and figure out what the three sea shells are for), he has to find a way to stop Phoenix, and find out who programmed him, and why.
It’s a fun no-brainer but it also lets Schneider and Leary play themselves instead of challenging them as actors. Bullock’s 20th century obsessed cop, Lenina Huxley, makes for a fun partner for Spartan, as she attempts to pigeonhole him with various film cop stereotypes.
There are some fun action beats, and some cool ideas at work in the film (I wonder if physical contact is outlawed because of a pandemic that hit the planet in the 2020s, or just because the brains behind Phoenix just doesn’t like the idea).
It’s a quick moving film, Stallone plays the fish out of water quite nicely, and easily carries the action set pieces alongside Snipes, and those are the moments that really make the film enjoyable. The future trappings of the story are cool, if a little short-sighted, and serving the world of the story, as opposed to actual possibilities.
Bullock shows she has a talent for comedy, and despite the fact that she doesn’t have much to do in the action department of the film, I’m sure it was a good launching point for her next film, Speed.
Stallone films can be hit or miss, and even the hits aren’t going to be super amazing, but they are going to be damned entertaining. And this foray into the future worked better than Stallone’s other future film, the film adaptation of the comic book property Judge Dredd.
Snipes’ villain, Phoenix, is probably the best character in the film, and is very much the Joker to Spartan’s Batman, he’s homicidal, insane, and loves every minute of it. He constantly steals every scene he is in, and more then holds his own going up against Stallone.
It’s a fun piece of popcorn entertainment, but not much more than that.