What to do when you’re new in L.A.?  I mean, besides drink Pepsi and wear Reebok.  Well, if you’re Shaquille O’Neal, you make Steel, one of D.C.’s early comic book movie efforts.  1997 was a hell of a year for bad comic book movies, so is Steel great?  Is it terrible?  Let’s dive into the dumpster and find out.


Shaq plays John Henry Irons who is an army weapons designer.  He works on, what he calls, non-lethal weapons.  Although, the first weapon we see is a rifle that fires a laser that can destroy the treads of a tank, which also shoots fireballs that melt the steel from the top.  So, I suppose, that it’s non-lethal in the sense that if you don’t point it at a person, it might not kill them.

He works with a woman named Sparky (Annabeth Gish) and a man Nathaniel (Judd Nelson).  While they’re testing their weapons for a senator, Judd Nelson decides to turn their newest weapon, a “non-lethal” sonic cannon up to the maximum level to impress her.  The shock wave reverberates off a wall and crushes part of the building they’re in.  The resulting damage kills the senator and paralyses Sparky.

Judd Nelson is court-martialed and dishonorably discharged from the army.  Shaq decides to resign his commission and he goes back to his grandmother’s house in L.A.  At the same time Judd Nelson also goes to L.A. to meet with the 1990s dressed up like a human man.  This guy is wearing the most ridiculous oversized suit, and he has a greasy blond mullet.  The only thing missing from him is the colors teal and purple–the most 90s colors there are.

So, Judd Nelson proposes that they make and sell weapons together, and 90s man show Nelson the operation.  Apparently, they are shipping arcade games, but in the cabinet of the games, they’ve hung rifles and machine guns.  Not bolted down or wrapped, just hung, like from a nail, as if they won’t fall down while being carted around the country.

Later, Shaq is going on a ride-along with a friend who is a policewoman.  While they’re driving they witness a robbery.  A Hummer pulls up to a bank and uses a sonic cannon to blow out of the front of the bank and then a laser gun to cut the bank vault.  Shaq recognizes these weapons as his design.  He chases after one of the robbers but gets no information out of him.

Shaq goes and visits Sparky who is mopping in a recovery center.  He tries to convince her to come with him, but she just stares out the window.  So Shaq decides to break the window, letting the air blow on her face, and then he picks her up with her wheelchair.  Apparently, Shaq doesn’t understand that wheelchairs and meant to be pushed, but he picks her up, and everyone in the place cheers as if this is the end of the film and they’re running off together.  Spoiler alert for the “will they or won’t they” subplot…they won’t.

They go to a junkyard run by Richard Roundtree, and they have a 90s montage of building up their tech to compete with the gangs and the hi-tech weapons.  This is where Shaq finally builds his steel super suit.



Not good.  The special effects (except for an exploding helicopter) are pretty bad.  The acting is…I guess sub-par is probably the nicest I can put it.  The writing…man.  Let me explain it to you this way, part of the climax of the movie is that Shaq has to free throw a live grenade through a hole in a fence.



There really isn’t any reason why anyone ever needs to see this movie.  I suppose if you have a young child that you want to distract with bright 90s colors for awhile you could show them this movie.  Or, you could just give them a Charlotte Hornets T-shirt.  They might get more entertainment out of that.


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The Author

Mark Phillips

Mark Phillips

Mark Phillips is the author of several thriller and literary novels. His Bentley Books series introduced the world to sadistic serial killer Bentley Grimes, a villain of unbelievable cruelty and unimaginable coldness. His literary novels are populated with richly drawn characters struggling with issues that affect our society today, such as: homosexuality, alcoholism, family struggles, poverty, greed, and bigotry.

He is an avid sports fan as well as a lover of movies and television.

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