[Screen It]


(1997) (Shaquille O'Neal, Judd Nelson) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Minor Minor Moderate Minor Extreme
Mild None Mild None Mild
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
None Minor None Mild *Extreme

Action/Adventure: A man turns himself into a superhero to stop his former partner from selling high tech weapons to gang members and the rest of the world.
John Henry Irons (SHAQUILLE O'NEAL), Lt. Sparks (ANNABETH GISH) and Nathaniel Burke (JUDD NELSON) are military personnel who work with advanced weapons such as sonic cannons that can knock down walls with a heavy duty blast of sound. Everyone's happy with their work until Burke pushes the limits and causes an accident that kills a person and paralyzes Sparks from the waist down. Dismissed from the military, Burke meets an old friend and begins building and selling the high tech weapons on the streets of L.A. Meanwhile, Irons has left the military and brings the depressed Sparks back to L.A., his hometown city, to figure out how their weapons have fallen into gang members' hands. Greeted by his little brother, Martin (RAY JAY NORWOOD), Grandma Odessa (IRMA P. HALL) and Uncle Joe (RICHARD ROUNDTREE), John Henry revives Sparks' spirits. As more and more crimes are committed with the futuristic weapons, John Henry, Sparks, and Uncle Joe turn Irons into a superhero. Dubbed Steel because of his armored suit, he, along with the help of his colleagues, set out to stop Burke and his plans of arming the world with the dangerous weapons.
If they're fans of Shaq (of N.B.A. fame) or of the original comic, they just might.
For some superhero action violence.
  • SHAQUILLE O'NEAL plays a former military man who gets out when the weaponry gets too dangerous. Once he finds that the gangs in L.A. are using the weapons, he turns himself into an armored superhero to fight crime.
  • ANNABETH GISH plays a woman who overcomes her disability (she's a paraplegic) and helps defeat the crime on the streets and the evil corporation behind it.
  • JUDD NELSON plays the bad guy who wants power and sells weapons to anyone who wants them.


    OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
    Looking and feeling more comic bookish in nature than other recent comic adaptions, "Steel" is destined for a quick run at the theaters before retiring to your local video store shelves. Shaquille, featured in "Blue Chips" and having made his leading man debut in the disastrous "Kazaam," is also one of the executive producers of the film. That not only shows why it was made with him as the lead actor, but also shows what one can do when making millions upon millions of dollars as a basketball superstar. Now it's a safe bet that O'Neal will never, ever win an Oscar for acting. Or a Golden Globe. Or a People's Choice Award. What he has as his advantage, however -- beyond his immense size -- is a certain on-screen charisma. With that big goofy grin and bad, but game acting style, you can't help but like the big guy. It's just a shame that he has yet to find a vehicle that will propel him to the stardom he's accustomed to on the basketball court. Not that "Steel" is an awful film -- it does have something charming about it -- but it's not up there with the "Batman" series for getting better future parts in an acting career. Of course both Matthew McConaughey and Renee Zellweger had parts in "Return of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1994), that only proves that nobody knows anything when it comes to predicting future roles based on past work. When compared to other comic book adaptions, however, the basic premise just does not sound that exciting and that's a great detriment to this film's chances of succeeding. Comic books usually have something unique and wildly special about them and this film's exotic weapons just are not enough to fit that bill. In addition, Nelson's villain is flat, listless, and too stereotypical for us to "like" him (as often happens in the "Batman" series). I suppose naming the main character John Henry (after the great American fable character) and giving him an oversized hammer is cute, but gosh darn it, he never uses the hammer as, well, a hammer. One expects some Thor type wielding of the big piece of steel, but no, it just contains another sonic cannon gun. Of course this adaption sticks with the usual comic book silliness, such as Burke only being dismissed from the military after being responsible for the death of a U.S. Senator (I don't think so) and having Irons, a highly trained military man, getting a job pouring steel (I think so even less). The film also adds bits of its own inside humor that no kids and few adults will get. Richard Roundtree, spotting Steel's large hammer, admits that he particularly likes its shaft and then reacts in surprise to the others' reactions to his statement (for those who don't get it, Roundtree played the character "Shaft" two decades ago in the movies). Then there's the obvious question of why the bad guys never figure out to shoot the superheros' exposed fleshy parts of their bodies (Steel has a mask like Batman), or why the barrage of bullets never happens to his those areas. Obviously, the answer is that this is a comic book and those are the general laws of the comic book universe that are not meant to be questioned, but only accepted. Nonetheless, and despite the logic flaws, et al., the film has a certain charm that prevents it from being a total disaster. Not that it adds up to much, but it keeps the film from being horribly bad. Showing a lack of imagination and looking like a poor man's comic book adaption, we give Steel just a 3 out of 10.
    Comic book style violence and profanity are probably the biggest pieces of objectionable material for parents. There's a great deal of gunfire (both realistic and futuristic) and while many people are hit and injured, few are killed. A great deal of mayhem erupts in many scenes, however, with cars and buildings exploding. 3 "s" words are the worst of the language, and the villains have the stereotypical bad guy attitudes. Of particular good note is that the film contains a paraplegic character who, despite going through the obvious and, in this case, brief depression period, is very productive, helps the superhero in his cause, and is a good role model all around. Rarely seen, kids who have similar disabilities will probably like seeing this character and her accomplishments. Since some children will want to see this film (especially if they're fans of O'Neal) you should read through the content to determine whether it's appropriate viewing for them.

  • People drink in a bar.
  • A bum on the street wakes up, sees Steel in his outfit, and looks down to his bottle in a brown paper bag.
  • Burke and his associates drink champagne.
  • Sparks has a few bloody cuts and scrapes on her face and neck after a wall collapses on her.
  • A man's face is blackened and just a little bloody after a gun he's testing blows up.
  • A cop pulled from a burning car has a little bit of blood on her face.
  • Steel has a small, bloody cut on his chin.
  • Obviously Burke and his associates have both as they sell dangerous weapons to anyone who wants them, and Burke is also power hungry.
  • Gang members have both and use Burke's weapons to commit robberies.
  • A man robs two theatergoers at knife point.
  • Uncle Joe and Sparks do some fakery (sending a signature and using the D.A.'s voice) to get John Henry released from jail.
  • Some viewers may find scenes listed under "Violence" as also being tense.
  • John Henry chases a gang member through a rail yard and both are nearly squashed several times by train cars being connected. Likewise, John Henry saves an injured man from decapitation as a train nears his head on a track. Later, a railway car tips over and nearly falls on John Henry.
  • Handguns/Machine guns/Knives/Futuristic Weapons: All used to threaten, injure, or kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • The arcade corporation that Burke gets wrapped up with is just a front for a builder/supplier of exotic weapons, so we see many in their facility.
  • Laser guns: Used to cut through vault doors and to injure many people.
  • Grenade: Thrown into a shed where Steel and Martin are standing and then thrown back out before exploding.
  • Phrases: "I'll be dipped in sh*t and rolled in bread crumbs," "Nuts" (testicles) and "Shut up."
  • Despite better and correct advice, Steel tries to jump from one rooftop to another (over a wide alley) and barely manages to grab a hold of a pipe to save his life.
  • Since he doesn't want his identity known to the police, Steel's often seen fleeing from them that may give kids the wrong idea about that.
  • Steel drops many spiked objects onto the road that flatten the tires of the police car chasing him.
  • None.
  • There is a mild amount of action-oriented suspense music in this film.
  • None.
  • 3 "s" words, 19 damns, 9 asses (1 used with "hole"), 3 hells, 1 crap, and 2 uses of "Oh my God," and 1 use each of "Oh God" and "Oh Lord" as exclamations.
  • None.
  • People smoke in a bar.
  • Some neo-Nazi's are briefly seen smoking.
  • None.
  • Sparks is a paraplegic, but still manages to be productive in helping Steel (despite her earlier beliefs about her capabilities).
  • Gangs and violence.
  • Burke fires a sonic cannon that crumbles a building, and then ricochets and knocks down the building he and others are in. A Senator is killed (not seen) and Sparks is injured resulting in paralysis.
  • Burke sets off an explosive that snaps an elevator cable sending a woman (who disliked him) and two men to their deaths many stories below (we only see the cable snap and the car starting to descend rapidly).
  • Gang members use the sonic cannon to blow apart a wall (and a bum across the street) and then use a laser gun to cut through a vault. They then fire the laser weapons at cops who are hit and injured. John Henry pulls a cop from her burning car just before it explodes.
  • John Henry chases a gang member who hits another man several times. The kid fires his weapon at John Henry and then fires a sonic cannon that causes a rail car to nearly squash him. Later, John Henry is shot in the back with a weapon that temporarily injures him.
  • John Henry slams a public phone down in anger, tearing the unit from its base.
  • John Henry slams a gang member against a wall, but the others pull out their knives and guns and make him back down.
  • A man robs two theatergoers at knife point.
  • A gang battle has one group shooting machine guns at another fleeing group. Steel walks into the middle of this and they all fire their weapons at him, riddling his armor with many shots. They then try to run him over with their car, but a sonic blast stops the car in its tracks. Two other guys then attack him with boards, but without success.
  • An explosion knocks out a power grid.
  • Guards inside the Federal Reserve are shot with laser beam guns (injured but not killed). Steel and the bad guys exchange shots and a nearby truck explodes. Parts of a building fall onto some of the bad guys and Steel is then shot with a big sonic cannon that knocks him across the street.
  • A helicopter is shot with a laser beam. It explodes and falls to the street below, presumably killing everyone on board and it nearly hits a cop that Steel knocks out of the way.
  • Some S.W.A.T. team members break into John Henry's house. He grabs a few of them and throws them across the room and hits another with a frying pan before they finally arrest him.
  • A gun is held to Sparks' head.
  • Burke shoots and injures his partner and his gang member leader, injuring both of them.
  • A gun is held to Uncle Joe's head, but his dog jumps on the man and Uncle Joe then knocks the man out.
  • Sparks fires shots from her modified wheelchair, hitting many of the bad guys. General gunfire is then fired back and forth between the many parties and several explosions rock a warehouse.
  • Steel throws a hand grenade out of a shack that he and Martin are in and it explodes outside it.

  • Reviewed August 15, 1997

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