Ain't It Cool News - Review

Last Update: 24 October 2002

Ain't It Cool News Review

Source: Ain't It Cool News

October 2002

The Dimension Dump Redux
As David Twohy’s critically well-received BELOW sinks to the bottom of the celluloid floor with its $524 per screen average (an amount likely doubling the actual P&A spent on its behalf), would it surprise you to know that Bob Weinstein has another smart genre effort taking practice cuts in the on-deck circle for its chance to get mowed down like Sonny Corleone at a New Jersey tollbooth (he said, mixing his metaphors)?

The film in question is Kurt Wimmer’s long-delayed EQUILIBRIUM, for which Ain’t It Cool ran test screening reviews as long ago as last summer. It’s a modestly budgeted melding of FARENHEIT 451 and 1984 spiced up with some MATRIX-style action (though blessedly absent a hint of wire-fu), and lent an air of actorly respectability with solid performances by Christian Bale, Emily Watson, Taye Diggs and Angus MacFadyen. The hook here is how Wimmer’s future does Bradbury’s one prohibition better. Not only are books and all forms of art banned, but feelings, as well; an extreme measure necessitated by a particularly devastating chain of wars that succeeded in nearly wiping out the human race altogether. To suppress citizens’ emotions, a drug known as Prozium has been created to level out any substantive passion in their lives (it must be taken several times a day), while a benevolent dictator known as “Father” has been installed, his will carried out by a highly-skilled army of soldiers (i.e. samurai) known as Clericks.

Bale plays Grammaton Cleric John Preston, a near-model officer driven to perfection in his job after the arrest and execution of his wife, who committed the cardinal sin of daring to feel; thus, leaving Preston to raise their two young children on their own (including his terrifying, Hitler Youth son, whose intense adherence to the state seems to unnerve even his father). When Preston is forced to kill his longtime friend and cohort, Partridge (Sean Bean), for reading a volume of Yeats, doubt and curiosity begin to creep into his life, a complication which becomes a professional hazard with the assignment of a new, promotion hungry partner played by Diggs. As Preston’s introspection deepens, he becomes taken with a woman (Watson) who may have connections to the underground, which leads him to forego his required Prozium intake and begin an inquiry into the meaning of a life without feeling.

As a serious work of science-fiction, EQUILIBRIUM is a thoughtful effort with ambitions that should far exceed its budget, but Wimmer, a first-time feature director, comes at his concept with a probing intellect that overrides any lack of scope. Plus, the guy’s got a superb eye for staging action, resulting in some giddily inventive hand-to-hand combat, including a discipline Joe Bob Briggs would likely chasten “gun-fu” (actually, he’s probably already used that, but it takes on a whole new meaning here). Though some might cry foul at the generously sampled references, it should be noted that the THE MATRIX was little more than an exciting pastiche of classic Hong Kong actioners and 90’s cyberpunk fiction, and, really, as film geeks, aren’t we fairly forgiving of familiarity so long as the set-pieces are suitably mindblowing? I know that I am, especially when a number of sequences are eliciting audible gasps for their thrillingly elaborate choreography. In fact, there’s a gunfight near the end that actually outdoes the lobby shootout in THE MATRIX in terms of staging and use of geography.

EQUILIBRIUM finally appears set for a December 6th release date, which places it against ADAPTATION and ANALYZE THAT. Though I’d love to see the film get a March 2003 opening, feeding off what’s sure to be rabid anticipation for X2 and MATRIX RELOADED, in much the same fashion ROMANCING THE STONE benefited from the pre-release excitement for INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM, Wimmer’s picture might just appeal to audiences pissed off with the oomph-less SOLARIS (a film that’s number one on my must-see list, but which will probably infuriate general audiences). I hope so (as does the astute mastermind of CHUD, Nick Nunziata, who’s close to calling EQ his favorite film of 2003). This could very well be another PITCH BLACK if marketed correctly, and could do for Christian Bale what the disappointing REIGN OF FIRE could not last summer.

Put some work into this one, Bob. You’ve got a real sleeper on your hands.

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