Thursday, September 01, 2005

Review: Equalizer 2000 (1986)


Bear with me here, folks... So there was this nuclear war. And after the whole nuclear winter thing died down it got really hot, even in Alaska. In the sun-baked, barren wasteland that used to be the 49th state, there are still some pockets of humans left. A large, paramilitary-style group called the Ownership (possibly the remnants of George W. Bush's "Ownership Society") have taken control of all the gasoline reserves in the area. The members of the Ownership reside in a cheesy styrofoam castle and look kind of like dusty, post-apocalyptic chauffeurs.

The Ownership is trying to quash the dozen or so little rebel groups that oppose it. During a gun battle between the Ownership and the largest rebel group, we meet our "hero," a beefy bearded fellow by the named of Slade. Slade is fighting for the Ownership, but during the battle his father is killed and he is taken captive by the rebel group. Another member of the Ownership, a skinny idiot named Lawton, is pleased by this development. With the dashing and competent Slade out of the way he can move up the corporate ladder a little more quickly. To ensure that Slade doesn't come back and screw things up for him, Lawton tells the Ownership's leader that Slade deserted them and went over to the rebels' side.

Elsewhere, buxom, post-apocalyptic babe Karen is trying to make a deal with some scummy outlaws to trade gasoline for rockets. The deal goes awry and the outlaws chase her into the hills. She meets up with Slade, who just escaped from his captors, and the two of them fend off the outlaws. Karen takes Slade to the encampment of her father, Dixon. Dixon is the leader of a peaceful group that lives in a sort of fortified slag-heap. They don't want to get involved in the struggle between the Ownership and the rebels, but when the Ownership comes looking for Slade, they are forced to fight.

Dixon and his group are able to hold their own, thanks largely to a big-ass gun - the Equalizer 2000 (well, nobody actually calls it that in the movie but we all know that's its name). Once Lawton sees the Equalizer, he becomes obsessed with it, figuring that if he had a really big gun he could gain control of the Ownership. With the unwitting help of the outlaws, he gets the Equalizer and puts many ventilation holes in his former boss.

Dixon's group decides to throw in their lot with the rebels and attempt an attack on the Ownership castle. With the help of a mysterious tribe of "natives" called the Mountain People, they manage to fight their way in. Karen unwisely saves Slade's life and pays the ultimate price for it. Slade turns Lawton into swiss cheese. When it's all over, everyone throws their weapons into a bonfire, making the moral choice that in the future they will just kill one another with their bare hands.


For those of you who read Bitter Dregs, I've been trying to decide which is worse, Equalizer 2000 or its cousin, Firebird 2015 A.D. Both feature barren wastelands; dusty, dirty people driving around in beat-up old cars; lots of shooting; a struggle for gasoline; one rather attractive female character; and a distinct lack of effort on the part of the filmmakers. I still haven't made up my mind as to which is the inferior film, but I can say that Equalizer 2000 is the less intellectual of the two. I certainly never got the feeling that there was some oblique political message here the way I did with Firebird. I'd say that Equalizer 2000 is a movie made by the stupid, for the enjoyment of the stupid.

Speaking of stupid, heroes don't come much stupider than Slade. I don't mind the strong, silent type, but I like to have the impression that there is some kind of neural activity going on behind the scenes. When Slade sits there, looking stone-faced into the distance, you can almost hear a dial-tone. And what about the name "Slade," anyway? Do guys like this ever have normal names like Albert or Fred?

Slade's not the only one in the movie with a dumb name, though - many of the minor characters' monikers are even worse. The credits read like a list of rejects from the Seven Dwarves: Skidplate, Boze, Deke, Alamo, Tailfin, Firewall, Lube Job, etc... In addition to the bad names, the filmmakers also chose to give their actors really terrible costumes. Lawton, for example, sports a chauffeur's cap, shop goggles, football pads, boots, gauntlets, and duct tape accents, all seemingly spray-painted black. It looks even less threatening than it sounds on Lawton, who appears to be about 6'2 and 115 lbs.

I can't believe they killed off Karen (played with actual effort by Corinne Wahl). Maybe it was expecting too much to hope the only likable character would make it to the end of the film, but I was rather incensed when she got gunned down. She seemed to bring a little life to her role, unlike her costars (and, no, it wasn't just because she had a spandex tank-top with a plunging neckline). Her death served no particular purpose as far as the plot is concerned, so I'm guessing they had to eliminate her because she was making the other actors look even worse by comparison.

I don't know if the nuclear holocaust caused people to lose the ability to use the sights on guns, but nobody in Equalizer 2000 can aim worth two cents. Considering the number of rounds fired through the course of the movie, the death toll is really quite low. The only people who seem able to hit their targets are the Mountain People, who use bows and arrows as their primary weapons. The importance of the Equalizer seems mitigated by the fact that not even Slade could hit the broad side of a battleship with it.

Issues of aiming aside, I still don't understand what was so great about this gun anyway. It was basically just a couple of machine guns and rocket launchers welded together. It's not like the average graduate of shop class couldn't figure out how to make another one.

Final Analysis

Equalizer 2000 is a joyless little film which adds nothing of note to the post-apocalyptic school of cinema. The big gun is kind of cool, and Karen is agreeably foxy, but by the end of the movie they are both history. Watch this one only if every other boring, low-budget, post-nuclear-holocaust movie is unavailable.


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