31 January 2014

Equalizer 2000

Philippines – 1987
Director – Cirio Santiago
MGM/UA Home Video, 1987,VHS
Run Time – 1 hour 25 minutes.

I’m going to spend a little time with the cover of Equalizer 2000 here because no matter now old I get and how many times I “fall for it” I will always be a sucker for this kind of box. I’m also a sucker for films with a number in the title and especially (I know, we’re getting real esoteric here) numbers that are round thousands. They practically scream out “The future is going to be awesome! Come see!” And especially when the date in question has already passed by the time I see the film. That’s how I picked this movie. From the cover of Equalizer 2000, a cover which I might add is one of the most amazing pieces of modern pop-art ever created, one immediately assumes it’s going to be about Richard Norton and his breasts. The painting (because this was originally painted, by a person, with a brush) perfectly captures the look of slightly melancholy disinterest which, from Gymkata (1985) to Road House 2 (2006), Norton consistently brings to his performances. I realize that’s just how his face is shaped, but it is beautifully captured here and perfectly suited to this film. So intimidating and so confident is he that this whole endeavor is quite literally boring. So too does the woman at his side appear nonplussed by the battle that’s just begun in both word and deed on the cover. She is after all sheltered by the considerable bulk of Norton and his tool. In fact, she almost looks tired. Like a Southern California roller-skate waitress who’s been working all day and just wants you to quit staring at her chest and order your fucking burgers. Her boyfriend is here now and you are sooo not interesting.

But this movie isn’t really about Richard Norton or breasts. It’s not Richard Norton’s undeniable physical prowess which is the subject of that line on the back of the box. He is not the ultimate weapon although you would be excused for thinking so. No, the entire movie, from the title to the endless squabbling of the plot is about that rifle-grenade-launcher, rocket-launcher, laser, shotgun he’s carrying. That is the Equalizer, and they’re hanging a hell of a lot on that weapon. After some kind of apocalypse the world has been reduced to a parched desert landscape marked intermittently only by the cardboard and canvas forts of scattered scavenger cliques. Norton however, known here as Slade (the most popular boys name after the apocalypse it would seem) is a roving unaligned loner. As various
factions attack and defend against other factions, Slade is wounded and rescued by Karen who drives them back to her “good” guys. It is here that Slade discovers them welding a bunch of extra barrels onto an M-16. Upon completion Slade simply takes it. No one argues. Karen (Corrine Wahl) stares longingly at Slade. More assaults follow and the Equalizer changes hands several times until the “good” guys win and Slade drives off into the sunset to be alone with his thoughts. The purpose of this presumably is to build tension as “the ultimate weapon” tilts the delicate balance of post-apocalyptic society one way, then another. It doesn’t.

For as badass as it may be, the Equalizer is lost in the political squabbling that poses as this film’s “action,” its result as predictable as it is tedious. Corrine Wahl, nee Alphen does hang lustily upon Slade’s body, but from afar, with her eyes. She’s come a long way from Hot T-Shirts after all. In his second screen role ever, Robert Patrick makes an appearance as a minor character. His first film had been Santiago’s supremely nutty Future Hunters in which he starred as "Slade" with the supporting talents of, you guessed it, Richard Norton who looked predictably bored. Further lifting the costumes straight from Bobby Suarez’s Warrior’s of the Apocalypse, Equalizer 2000 discards the drug addled lunacy of both earlier films in favor of a monotonous back and forth exchange of small arms fire. Cheap Filipino post apocalypse films could hardly be more different. Slade and Karen’s thousand yard stares on that gorgeous cover would seem to be more disappointment than confidence.
For the box completist...