on December 06, 2002 by Michael Tunison
Borrowing enough from the dystopian science-fiction visions of "1984," "Brave New World" and "Fahrenheit 451" to remind us how thought-provoking the genre can be in the hands of the masters, writer-director Kurt Wimmer's painfully unoriginal "Equilibrium" isn't likely to have the Big Brothers of the world shaking in their boots. Despite the valiant efforts of its solid cast, this awkward combination of familiar SF conventions and over-the-top stylized action would seem to have a future every bit as bleak as the fictional one depicted onscreen.

Wimmer (1995's "One Tough Bastard") postulates a post-World War III world in which humans' problem-causing ability to feel emotions has been neutralized by government-enforced doses of a drug called Prozium. Law-enforcing "Cleric" John Preston ("Reign of Fire's" Christian Bale) is initially a fervent enough believer in this system to execute his partner (Sean Bean, "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring") for sneaking off to savor a contraband volume of Yeats' poetry. Then Preston misses a Prozium shot and starts to experience real feeling for the first time himself. A bewitching member of the anti-government resistance ("Punch-Drunk Love's" Emily Watson) shows up to further inspire his rebellious behavior, and his new partner ("Chicago's" Taye Diggs) is immediately suspicious that the protagonist has gone touchy-feely.

From its stock character types to its "Metropolis"-by-way-of-"Brazil" ruined cityscape backdrop, "Equilibrium" is a lackluster exercise in derivation almost completely free of fresh ideas. The Hong Kong-esque dual-handgun action set pieces blow through plenty of ammo, but are so disconnected from any sense of emotional stakes that one suspects they were conceived and executed under the influence of Prozium. What in the script drew actors as talented as Bale and Watson is a mystery unlikely to trouble moviegoers for long as "Equilibrium" fades forgettably into the screen history of the future. Starring Christian Bale, Emily Watson, Taye Diggs, Angus MacFadyen, William Fichtner and Sean Bean. Directed and written by Kurt Wimmer. Produced by Jan de Bont and Lucas Foster. A Miramax release. Science-Fiction. Rated R for violence. Running time: 106 min

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