The Sandra Bullock Files is a series that looks at the films of Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock, all the way from her debut in 1987, to her two major 2018 releases, Ocean’s Eight and Bird Box.
Does Sandra have A League of Their Own’s Lori Petty to thank for her career? It’s possible, considering Sandra replaced Petty in this 1993 action blockbuster a few days into filming. Petty broke out with films like Point Break and the aforementioned League, only to see her career stall before it even started with the Pauly Shore vehicle In the Army Now and her one starring role in Tank Girl. She could have added another major film to her list in 1993 with the Sylvester Stallone / Wesley Snipes action thriller Demolition Man, but when she disagreed with producer Joel Silver over the direction of her character, she was fired, giving Sandra the opportunity to join a film that would be her first of two major breaks.
In Demolition Man, Sandra plays Lenina Huxley, a lieutenant in 2032 Los Angeles (now called San Angeles), who happens to be fascinated with the ways of the world prior to the year 2010, when a major earthquake destroyed everything between Los Angeles and San Diego. When an evil crime lord Simon Phoenix (Snipes) breaks out of his cryogenic prison, where he’s been frozen since 1996, a troubled cop John Spartan (Stallone), who was also frozen due to negligence, is released from the prison in order to take down bad guy Simon. Lenina is then put in charge to take care of John, alerting him to all the recent developments, including the new norm for sexual intercourse, updated voice activations, and the lack of toilet paper in bathroom stalls.
Before Demolition Man, Sandra had appeared in multiple independent films, and even had her own television show for a brief run, but nothing she had appeared in before had reached the level of audience awareness as a new science fiction blockbuster starring world-renowned movie stars like Stallone and Snipes. While she appeared in a whopping six films in 1993, this was finally the big, juicy role in a major motion picture that she needed to bring her to the forefront of casting directors’ minds. While her next big picture, released in 1994, would be the definitive film to put her on the map, Demolition Man remains Sandra’s first major step toward stardom.
But is the flick actually any good? 25 years since its release, the movie still plays extremely well, with plenty of action, drama, romance, and a mix of intentional comedy — “he’s finally matched his meat, you really licked his ass” — and unintentional comedy — the opening shot that shows the Hollywood sign on fire in the future year of… 1996!
What some may have forgotten is that Sandra has very much a lead role in the film, and probably has more screen time than Snipes, who’s credited on the poster above the title. And this isn’t some bland female love interest role, either, with nothing for Sandra to play. She inhabits the character as if she’s a naïve five-year-old child, curious about the city’s history, trying to spout twentieth century action hero lines, only interested in the kind of sex with John that will prevent the sharing of fluids.
But in the end, even though Sandra has had few chances during the film’s running time to show off her ass-kicking skills, she gets one great scene in which she takes down a thug in an applause-worthy manner. This is a role that easily could have been annoying with a different actress — Petty included — but Sandra makes Lenina both endearing and believable, hard to come by in a science fiction action flick set in the far-off future.
While some might not consider Demolition Man among the best of Sandra’s efforts, it’s certainly worth watching for those who miss that special time in the mid-90s when Sandra made action movies! From 1993 to 1997 she made four action flicks, but the failure of Speed 2 prevented her from ever making another one for sixteen long years.
Best Scene: Tie — Sandra kicking ass toward the end before Stallone knocks her unconscious, and the “sex scene” between Sandra and Stallone.
Best Line: “You are even better live than on Laserdisc!”
Demolition Man remained Sandra’s only science fiction film until Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity.
When asked where she learned her kicks, Sandra’s character Lenina answers that she learned from watching Jackie Chan movies. In 2014, upon receiving her Critic’s Choice Award for Best Actress in an Action Movie for Gravity, she thanked Jackie Chan for everything he’s taught her.
Sandra’s costume during the Taco Bell sequence was made of stones and gems weighing approximately forty pounds.
Sandra would go on to co-star with Denis Leary in Two If By Sea and Benjamin Bratt in Miss Congeniality.