Movies Bad Enough to be Good: Equilibrium

Equilibrium is a movie I've tried to watch on at least five separate occasions, but some distraction always halted the viewing (boys, sleep, college, you know how it is). For whatever reason, I never got past the bit where Taye Diggs comes on screen (and continue to believe it's a tragedy when Sean Bean is killed off in the first ten minutes of any movie).

It's an incredibly silly movie that makes very little sense. So naturally I loved it, even though it's essentially a strange pastiche of every dystopian classic you can think of, with a dash of The Matrix thrown in for flavor. Society burns art and literature! Color is illegal! Emotions are banned! There's an omnipresent floating head of Sean Pertwee! It uses a newly created fake martial art called Gun-kato that was invented by the director in his backyard!

Christian Bale plays Preston, a Cleric of the Tetragrammaton (say that one time fast), who runs around catching so-called 'sense offenders' who have the temerity not to take their daily dose of super-prozac to kill their feelings. The first victim we see is Bale's partner, played by Sean Bean with far more gravitas than this movie deserves. W.B. Yeats brings tears to his eyes, so Bale brings bullets to his brain.

Guess what happens next? Bale accidentally misses a dose, and is all, whoa, sunrises are colorful and people are human. Which also leads to one of the most ludicrous scenes I have ever seen on film ever: Bale blows his cover over puppy dog eyes. A PUPPY DOG! Even in humanity today, less than half of the world believes that dogs are anything more than food. There is absolutely no basis for him to find dogs adorable without the societal conditioning that might make you value domesticated animals more than any other animal. I swear, the dog takes up the entire middle third of the movie. Culminating with a fight scene worthy of Neo, but mercifully more brief than anything in the Matrix.

So, I'm guessing this just sounds pretty awful to you so far. Well, it has a lot working in its favor. To save money, rather than use dodgy CGI, director Kurt Wimmer filmed the entire movie on location in East Berlin, and made full use of the brutalist architecture that dominates the landscape. The movie just generally looks amazing. The cast also helps in elevating the movie from being completely inane. Christian Bale in his first action hero role, Taye Diggs, Emily Watson, Sean Bean, William Fichtner. Also, and this is important: the action scenes are few, and they are SHORT, keeping my eye-rolling to a bare minimum.

So why does this movie round the circle of bad to come back to good? I just find it intensely amusing that all these very good actors looked at this script and still took the film seriously. So you get these scenes with no dialogue that have Christian Bale acting his heart out even though there's no emotional payoff or plot justification for the gravitas.

I would never have heard of this movie if one guy hadn't insisted it's the best movie ever. While that is highly revealing about his taste (or lack thereof), I'm glad I saw it. And if you watch it, just go along for the ride and don't try to think too hard.

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2 Responses to “ Movies Bad Enough to be Good: Equilibrium ”

  1. "Best movie ever"?  No.  "Good action movie worth recommending"? Yes.  I loved the "gun-fu" sequences that the director came up with, especially the climactic battle.

  2. In fairness, those scenes were kind of cool. The plot? not so much.


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