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DVD Review: Equillibrium

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Before he was Batman, Christian Bale starred in Equilibrium, a 2002 dystopian sci-flick. Bale plays John Preston, a “cleric” trained in a gun-wielding form of kung fu, and tasked with ridding illegal forms of “emotional content” from the totalitarian city-state of Libra. In Libra, emotion is outlawed, along with everything else, from books and movies to pets and displays of affection. Preston and other Grammaton Clerics hunt down other “sense offenders” on the behest of the omnipresent Father (Sean Pertwee), who appears via video throughout the city.

With emotion designated the root of human conflict, the citizens of Libra live peaceful – if sterile – lives. Preston’s duty is challenged, however, when he is forced to track down and kill his partner Errol (Sean Bean), who has gone rogue and taken to reading Yeats.

Preston runs when into trouble when his supply of an emotion-limiting drug runs out. Things get even worse when he is partnered with the ambitious Brandt (played by the smarmy-as-ever Taye Diggs), who will gladly throw Preston into a not-so-proverbial fire to advance his career. With Brandt closing in on Preston’s now-heightened (and highly illegal) emotions, Preston must choose between protecting the status quo and helping a captured Resistance member (Emily Watson) take down Father.

The more I think about it, Equilibrium owes an enormous debt to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Both feature oppressive societies suppressing human nature through one means or another (be it books or emotion), and both feature protagonists who start out agents of the oppressive society and wind up agents of change. But despite a few powerful moments,
Equilibrium is evocatively an unapologetic action flick rather than a hard sci-fi flick. With this understanding, Equilibrium, triumphs, especially thanks to the “gun kata” used by the clerics – and extensively borrowed from Hong Kong cinema. Brandt and Preston in particular have a thrilling fight as the two clerics finally go head-to-head.

After 
Equilibrium

director/writer had a string of credits ranging from forgettable 
(The Recruit

to downrigh horrible 
(Ultraviolet), 

but Wimmer seems to have hit his stride once more with the Angelina Jolie thriller 
Salt 

(which has spawned an upcoming sequel). He is returning to his futuristic roots with the long-awaited remake of the ’80s classic 
Total Recall.

While 
Equilibrium 

lacks the substance of classic sci-fi, it is an enjoyable action-packed bargain find, and one which offers a tantalizing glimpse of things to come in the upcoming 
Total Recall.

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