#7: Steel (1997)
It isn’t the 1990s anymore, so I can no longer rely on simply stating that this is a superhero film starring Shaquille O’Neal (as John Henry Irons, or the titular hero Steel) telling you everything you need to know about this film.
Shaqueille O’Neal, aka “Shaq,” was pretty easily the most famous basketball player in the 1990s next to Michael Jordan. He was notable for his imposing size and inability to shoot free throws. The fact that the latter quality is actually referenced in this film is a symptom of this film’s most glaring problem: you do not cast Shaqueille O’Neal in the leading role of a film, because suddenly it becomes about Shaqueille O’Neal playing dress up.
As you might expect, O’Neal’s acting alternates between laughably and painfully bad. The thing is, it isn’t just O’Neal’s acting. Judd Nelson as the film’s antagonist (Nathaniel Burke) is almost equally bad, the script is weak, most of the dialogue is outright awful, and the plot seems to be there out of sheer obligation. The anti-weapon theme of the film might have made it worth seeing if it had been excuted better, but the film is far too sloppy to really effectively make that point.
This film is pretty much impossible to take seriously. Shaq’s acting, which should be the weakest part of any film he’s associated with, is really the only thing that makes this film worth watching due to the unintentional hilarity of it. His relationship with his Uncle Joe (Richard Roundtree) and Grandma Odessa (Irma P. Hall) are far too hoaky to give the film any emotional depth. Really, hoaky is just a great way to describe this entire film.
The lone bright spot in this film is Annabeth Girsh (The X-Files, The West Wing) as Irons’ partner Susan Sparks. In addition to being the only good performance in the film, Sparks portrays a soldier who becomes a paraplegic, and was praised for her strong performance in this role.
This is the last film on this list that’s what I can call “harmlessly” bad. Yes, this is a really bad film, but there’s nothing all that offensive about it. It’s just… bad. It’s poorly-written, poorly-directed, poorly-acted. If I were ordering this list simply in terms of quality, it would be much higher than #7. But it doesn’t represent an affront (a direct insult, really) to superhero fans the way the last six films on this list do.
If you really want to see me rip something to shreds, trust me: it’s coming. My reviews of the last six films on this list will be an unrelenting assault on films that have offended my sensibilities as a viewer to such a degree that I have a visceral need to tear them apart.
It’s coming. I promise. Stay tuned.