EQUILIBRIUM is lost to the stray hapless viewer of this 2002 futuristic actioner, one of the fairly rare missteps from star Christian Bale, who ordinarily masters gravity. He masters hand-to-hand combat here, or rather, hand-to-gun, as the rebel he plays is a practioner of gun cata, a fist & shoot gimmick invented (in his backyard) by the film’s director Kurt Wimmer, who also wrote the screenplay. Bale kills 118 opponents during the course of 107 minutes, if that reassures you about the future of humanity. *
“Mankind united with infinitely greater purpose in pursuit of war than he ever did in pursuit of peace.”
After WW3, survivors exist in the totalitarian city-state of ‘Libria’, which bans emotion and those objects which stimulate emotional response. Picture a situation where everyone was as animate as Wolf Blitzer. The populace is controlled through drugs, propaganda and if they get out of line—execution (who said this was a fantasy?) by ‘Grammaton Clerics’, who enforce the rule of the ‘Tetragrammaton Council’. The cleric played by Bale sees the light and joins the ‘Underground’ resistance movement.
If you’ve read “Fahrenheit 451”, “Brave New World” or “1984” or seen the film versions, let alone Logan’s Run, Blade Runner, Gattaca or any of a city-stateload of dire peeks at the things to come, this will either grip you (it has a loyal following) or shortly provoke a search for the remote. Naturally, the visual palette is bleak grey, and location filming in Berlin uses architecture linked to the bad old days to drive the point home: those familiar with Berlin will recognize places like Olympic Stadium, the Brandenberg Gate, Templehof Airport and Bundestag.
Bale is always worth watching and there are solid supporting players in Emily Watson, Taye Diggs, Angus Macfadyen, Sean Bean and David Hemmings, but the grim tone, derivative structure and elaborate but unexciting action sequences fail to engage. Critics were mostly dismissive and the $20,000,000 invested tanked when it only drew $5,369,000 around the unfazed globe.
With Matthew Harbour and William Fichtner.
* In the script, supporting swine Macfadyen (‘Vice-Consul DuPont’) gives a rundown of the signature martial artiness: “Through analysis of thousands of recorded gunfights, the Cleric has determined that the geometric distribution of antagonists in any gun battle is a statistically-predictable element. The gun kata treats the gun as a total weapon, each fluid position representing a maximum kill zone, inflicting maximum damage on the maximum number of opponents, while keeping the defender clear of the statistically-traditional trajectories of return fire. By the rote mastery of this art, your firing efficiency will rise by no less than 120 percent. The difference of a 63 percent increased lethal proficiency makes the master of the gun katas an adversary not to be taken lightly.” Sure. This is why God made shotguns.
We will give director Wimmer one strong drink and a free smirk for his retort to the bad reviews: “Why would I make a movie for someone I wouldn’t want to hang out with? Have you ever met a critic who you wanted to party with? I haven’t.”