Hey folks, Valkor here just finishing up being in procrastination mode, to give a review of Warner Home's latest entry into their "Archive Collection", 1997's flop of the year "Steel" starring Shaquille O'Neal and Judd Nelson. And I'll be honest, this is the first and quite possibly the last time I'll be checking this one out.
Before we begin, let's get a little backstory because the story of Steel didn't just come out of nowhere. The character was born from the rise of Supermen (or Reign of Supermen as the comic series called) after the original Superman had died from wounds inflicted by Doomsday. Four Supermen appeared each claiming to be THE Superman, except for John Henry Irons – he was supposed to have embodied the "spirit" of Superman and seemed to have taken on all of his good qualities. John Henry created a suit of Steel that he used to battle gangs who somehow acquired hi-tech weaponry.
And the movie Steel, follows along a similar path. John Henry Irons (Shaq) is also a weapon's specialist, who quits after his closest friend Sparks (Annabeth Gish) is paralyzed after a failed weapons test caused by Nathaniel Burke (Nelson). Upset with how Burke's punishment was handled, Irons quits the army and heads home to L.A. where he takes up work in a steel mill. (Funny right?). And guess who follows him? That's right, Burke. Burke looks up an old friend, "Big Willy" (Steve Mattila). Big Willy used to be an arms dealer, now he's a video arcade mogul, which also helps out inner city kids. Burke makes him an offer – to help make the sonic weapon he helped test in the army so that he could sell on the black market.
Irons and an old cop friend, Norma (Tembi Locke) are taking a ride with Martin in the back when she gets an APB on a bank robbery attempt. When they arrive on the scene, Irons is confronted with the weapons he helped make in the army and wonders how the hell they got on the streets. Norma is hurt and now Irons wants answers. But he also wants to get the guns off the streets so he enlist the help of Sparks and "Uncle Joe" (played by Richard Roundtree aka "Shaft" who also makes a cheesy reference joke) and together they use their resources to help build Steel's suit of armor and weapons. As John says "ya gotta fight fire, with fire." And thus Steel is born. His first outing proved quite successful, with a few hiccups and a run in with the cops. The second run wasn't quite successful, which led to his arrest. Ultimately all roads lead to Steel and his confrontation with Burke and the takedown of a black market auction that would see the sonic weapons in the heads of some pretty nasty characters.
I'll be quite honest – this wasn't the hardest pill I've ever had to swallow; the plot of the film is pretty straightforward and quite solid. I went in totally expecting the worse from all the bad reviews this film got and I was looking forward to mostly bashing the story, which I honestly cannot. The story is quite good in super cheesy kinda way. And though the film isn't in anyway, shape, or form related to Superman, you can tell had the "Death of Superman" movie been made, you can see (quite subtlety) how they would connect. Steel's origin story is kept intact, or I should say the basic story is kept intact. In the comics his rose from rubble spouting how he needed to go after Doomsday. In the movie he lifts rubble off of his fallen friend. So in that respect I must say, nice job!
The plot's the only thing I can actually speak positive about the film. First off, Shaq, love ya as a ball player but acting… yikes! Though I will say this much, you gave it your best and you can tell you had fun playing the part. Sadly you were given the part because at that time you were the flava of the month, and hey why not ride the "Shaq wave", right? You were tearin up the courts, doin music (Can we rock? What's up Doc?), a video game (Shaq Fu) and you were fresh off "Kazaam". Dude's on fire! Thankfully Steel quenched that flame because (again) "yikes"! The dialogue was pretty rough, the jokes were rougher – more time than a clock? Now I know where Halle Berry got her inspiration for that line she used in X-men (you guys know the one about a toad and lightning right?). Next is the costume. THAT'S the thing that kept me away from this film from the start! Why not go full-on face mask? Bad enough the dude is 7' 6", ya think no one, who doesn't know Irons, won't know who he is just by looking at his height? Yea let's toss some face in there to really help distinguish him. Oh and keeping with the costume, the guy is called "Steel" for a reason, but you can tell he's wearin rubber (or at least it appears to be) but why not actually, you know, make the steel sound like "steel"? His first appearance as Steel he just shows up, spouts a few lines and takes down a purse snatcher. How awesome would it have been had he stepped out to the sound of clunking metal? Anyone see Robocop? When you hear those feet falls, you know it's on! The action deserves another nod in the bad category because there isn't enough. I really wanted Steel to tear schtuff up, i.e. rip up cars, toss heavy shit, and do some wailin with his hammer. Instead he does a lot of standing… and moving (there was that one foot chase, but I'm saving that for the ugly section). Oh and huge "booo!" to the "jokes" about his "J" (jump shot), he misses every shot he attempts to make but at the end one of the baddies tosses a grenade into a room where Steel and his brother are kept. I thought grenades went off in seconds, imagine my surprise that it practically takes a full minute of him disposing of the grenade, through a hole in a gated fence.
I could go on (I didn't mention how Judd Nelson hams it up), but I wanna jump into…
Worst foot chase scene EVER – So one of the crooks, Cutter (George Lemore) gets a wee bit greedy and ends up getting left behind, because he wants to make sure to get all that he can get. Irons finds the guy and the god awful chase scene begins. It's slow, it's ugly, it makes little to no sense. Shaq wasn't even running, it looked like he was trotting? Hasn't anyone seen Michael Bay's films? Dude can do running with those quick edits of his.
I'll admit I have a taste for cheese and some of my film reviews can attest to that (I actually liked Dragon Ball Evolution), however Steel isn't the kind of film I'd purposely buy, rent or even pick from a dollar DVD bin. It's the kinda film you stumble upon, on a late Monday night, on TBS, and there's nothing on Skinemax… for another 2 hours, and you need to kill that time till then. A decent plot doth not a decent film make. And Steel just doesn't do it for me. Out of TOV 5 stars, I give the film a 2. Now I need to watch some Dark Knight to wash the Steel from my brain.