Plot: John Henry Irons (Shaquille O’Neal) was part of an elite squad that designed cutting edge weapons for the military, a team which also included Susan (Annabeth Gish) and Nathaniel (Judd Nelson). Irons consulted on a weapon that was non lethal, but could subdue combatants and remove physical obstacles. But Nathaniel wanted to push the tech beyond tested limits, so during a testing demonstration, he turned up the intensity despite the dangers involved. This led to the death of a senator and severe injuries to Susan, leaving her in a wheelchair. But Nathaniel didn’t abandon his ambition for the weapons, instead he stole the tech and took the powerful tools to the street. Now gang members test his weapons, using the tech to rob banks and worse. Irons winds up in the middle of one of the robberies and recognizes the tech he helped designed, so he knows serious trouble is at hand. He recruits Susan and his uncle Joe (Richard Roundtree) to help him fight back against the criminals and reclaim the stolen tech, but can he stand up to the potent weapons he helped create?
Entertainment Value: This is a superhero movie that stars Shaq, so you should know from that statement if you’re interested in Steel. The premise is simple, as Shaq battles the bad guys and tries to make the streets safe again, though the narrative doesn’t stick close to the comic book roots. Shaq is always fun to watch and while Steel is often quite ridiculous, it is far from the worst superhero movie out there. If nothing else, the mostly practical effects and stunts add a lot to the experience, especially when compared to most comic book movies, which pile on the green screen effects and drown us in terrible CGI. The movie also knows what it is, so it has a sense of humor and never tries to be overly dramatic or pretentious. But then when you have Shaq wielding a sledgehammer and covered in metal plates, being serious would have been tough. That sense of humor provides most of the entertainment value, including some effective references to real life, such as Shaq’s poor free throw skills. I think the camp value alone makes this worth a look, if you appreciate odd movies and stunt casting like this. I’d say the movie has unintentional humor galore, but the film is so self aware, I think all the camp value was done on purpose. Steel is a much maligned movie, but I think it entertains from the camp perspective and hey, Shaq did his own stunts!
No nakedness. So if you hoped for that full frontal scene from Shaq, you’ll be let down in that respect. No blood either, the weapons in the movie are high tech and don’t splatter the streets with crimson. As I said before, most of the stunts and effects here are practical and while that might not seem like a big deal, I think it matters. I just prefer practical set pieces instead of hokey green screen, even if it means the action and stunts are dialed down somewhat. And Steel has ample action, with chases, shoot outs, and a hilarious scene where Shaq seems to think he can leap from rooftop to rooftop. The armor design is of course silly and Shaq looks ridiculous when he is geared up, but that just adds to the camp value, in my opinion. The dialogue is very self aware and often humorous, with a number of effective pop culture references. The street lingo seems so antiquated now, but that is still fun as it seems so cringe now. In terms of insanity, just Shaq in this wild armor with his sledgehammer is pretty out there, but the movie has some other little odd touches as well. A strange subplot involves an obsession to combine fine cuisine with soul good, several scenes have rampant whispering, and Judd Nelson’s outlandish bad guy performance spring to mind as weird elements.
Overall Insanity: 2/10