Steel

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Steel

Hollywood's latest attempt to exploit America's non-existent love affair with Shaquille O'Neal stars the charisma-impaired hoopster as an Army metallurgist who returns to civilian life after plucky sidekick Annabeth Gish is disabled by chief bad guy Judd Nelson. Alas, all is not well back in the 'hood, as Nelson has set up a gun-running ring using local children and the local arcade as a front. With the help of computer whiz Gish and crusty uncle Richard Roundtree, O'Neal makes a miraculous transformation from a dim-witted, muscle-bound metal-worker into Steel, a dim-witted, muscle-bound crimefighter who wears a silly costume. It's all generically executed with the thudding earnestness of an inspirational TV movies. O'Neal is leaden throughout, delivering his lines with an affectless monotone, but even a real actor would have difficulty with such a bland, one-dimensionally scripted character. The film's attempts at hipness are mostly pathetic, ranging from beginner's Ebonics ("Yo, Slatz, I thought you was the man, but you just frontin' for yo homies") to the increasingly popular villains-using-the-Internet plot device. (Perhaps it's designed to tap into the public's deep primal fear of e-mail). But despite these scattered moments of unintentional humor, Steel is irredeemable, an insulting piece of hackwork likely to bore even the most easily impressed of children.

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