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Film / Equilibrium

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"So we have created a new arm of the law: the Grammaton Cleric, whose sole task it is to seek out and eradicate the true source of man's inhumanity to man: his ability to feel."

Equilibrium is a 2002 Science Fiction action film inspired by many previous works of dystopian fiction (particularly Nineteen Eighty-Four, We, The Giver, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, and The Matrix). Also the film that defined the trope of Gun Kata.

After a Third World War devastates the Earth, the totalitarian state left in its wake (Libria) comes to consider human emotion as the root cause of all conflict. Libria subsequently bans all emotionally stimulating material (e.g. art, books and music); any "sense offenders" caught by the police end up sentenced to death by incineration. The government also requires citizens to take daily injections of an emotion-suppressing drug in order to prevent "sense offense".

The governing body of Libria — the Tetragrammaton Council — uses the police to maintain conformity; the high-ranking Grammaton Clerics, trained in the martial art of Gun Kata, frequently carry out raids where they destroy both "sense offenders" and any offending materials found with them. A pre-Batman Christian Bale plays the role of John Preston, a highly-regarded Cleric who accidentally fails to take a dose of his emotion-suppressing drugs and ends up feeling emotions — which attracts the attention of the other Clerics and the Council's leader, the all-powerful "Father".

This film has a character sheet.

Equilibrium contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: The katana used in the final confrontation delivers a Clean Cut.
  • Aesoptinum: The drug Prozium subdues emotions to prevent such things as violence and war. This is helped along by the banning of anything with an Emotional Content rating of ten, which can include anything even remotely artistic, and anyone caught with such contraband is burned alive (or shot repeatedly if they try to make things difficult). Naturally, there's an underground resistance that the main character eventually champions after he stops taking his meds.
  • After the End: The setting takes place after World War III and a nuclear exchange that devastated most of the nations of Earth. One of the surviving states is Libria, ruled by the Tetragammaton Council that blames the freedom of human emotion as the cause of this war.
  • Alone in a Crowd: John Preston after he goes off his emotion-supressing meds. Probably many of the sense offenders as well, but the movie doesn't focus on them.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Brandt's trademark satisfied smile. Depending on how you interpret it, it might imply that he doesn't take Prozium, like DuPont, or that he takes it so zealously that his facial expressions have gone meaningless, with the smile being a shade of his former mannerisms.
  • Animesque: Equilibrium is very shiny, futuristic and borrows heavily from Asian themes such as martial arts, dystopian settings and the Confucian anti-emotion culture common in traditional Asiatic societies. Librian Clerics even make use of Katanas.
  • Artistic License – Art: In an early scene, the Grammaton Clerics capture and destroy a stash of contraband art, including The Mona Lisa. Their scanners even assure them it's the original Mona Lisa—but it's still much larger than its Real Life counterpart.
  • Awesome by Analysis: Gun Kata's shtick is that those trained in it can switch targets as fast as possible while avoiding the opponent's shots thanks to studying many recorded gun fights and calculating the most likely positions to maximize lethality while minimizing vulnerability.
  • Badass Longcoat:
  • Batman Gambit: Preston stops taking Prozium and infiltrates the resistance. Just as DuPont planned.
  • Behind the Black: In the climax, John Preston walks into a small circular room with numerous pillars. After a brief conversation with the bad guy on the opposite side of the room, they cut to a shot standing in front of the door, while bad guys step out from behind the pillars. The problem is that they were on the same side of the pillars as Preston. Some even walk all the way around the pillar just to make for a better reveal, rather than just moving straight for their target. Of course, it's possible he actually saw them, he just didn't care.
  • Big Brother Is Employing You: John Preston is the top Grammaton Cleric, responsible for tracking down and bringing to justice "sense offenders," the opponents of the Tetragrammaton Council, the government of Libria.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Interestingly, this trope is played straight (much like in Ultraviolet (2006) after it) with Sweepers and other Tetragrammaton mooks, with plumes of smoke coming out of them instead of blood— as if they literally were just faceless puppets of the evil regime, not human beings. However, it is averted with Resistance fighters who do bleed. Special mention goes to a man who tries to grapple Preston and gets shot by Brandt— Preston's gun and gloves are subsequently covered with his blood.
  • Bloodstained Glass Windows: Played with, since only one shot is fired in a church.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: In the final fight, Brandt guards DuPont even though, after Preston cuts off Brandt's face, it becomes clear that DuPont is a master at Gun Kata. Before that, Preston had to mow down a group of imposing-looking Praetorian Guard in DuPont's office, who fell just as quickly.
  • Book Burning: The dystopian society does this to pretty much any piece of art or literature considered inductive of emotion. They also like to kill dogs for much the same reason.
  • Boomerang Bigot: DuPont wants to destroy all sense-offenders, despite being one himself.
  • Brainwashing for the Greater Good: If you count "removing human emotion, positive and negative" as brainwashing, then yes, this qualifies for the trope. However, it is only a justification that Humans Are Bastards.
  • Broken Faceplate: When a mook's visor is shattered, they invariably collapse and die; it's due to being shot in the face, or a pistol lethally slamming into the Sweeper's skull after passing through the faceplate.
  • Bullet Proof Human Shield: At one point, Brandt machine-guns a sense offender who is grappling with Preston without killing him too.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Happens to Preston after he stops taking his Prozium.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Where Preston literally hands his gun to Brandt for later exploitation.
  • Chemical Messiah: The drug Prozium makes people emotionless. The top brass sell it as a solution to man's tendency to war and strife. It isn't addictive, though going off of it can be difficult for people because it's almost like going on a drug, with a flood of emotions that are hard to control or hide.
  • Cheshire Cat Grin: Cleric Brandt is constantly smiling even though he's supposedly emotionless. It might be a sign that he's not on Prozium or just indicate that he's so cold-blooded that he doesn't need emotions to smile smugly.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Brandt does this sometimes. Of particular note is the scene where he publicly shames Preston for being a sense offender.
  • Church Militant: Despite serving a secular state, the Grammaton Clerics use the trappings of this trope. Some of the quasi-religious vibes are a bit more subtle: though it also sort of resembles the Nazi swastika, the symbol of the Librian regime is most similar to the type of cross seen on the coat of arms of the medieval Kingdom of Jerusalem, or the "decapitated cross" of Brave New World. Moreover, "Tetragrammaton"note  is an euphemism used to refer to the name of God.
  • Clean Cut: Brandt's face slides off after a cut from Preston.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: The Tetragrammaton Clerics are tasked with rooting out and apprehending or killing Sense Offenders. Preston, stated as being one of the best Clerics, fails to realize that his entire family, his partner Partridge, and his boss are all Sense Offenders. It's clear that his reputation is based on A) his combat skills and B) his contraband-sniffing skills, rather than his ability to actually find the people he's supposed to be hunting. Though it could also be that he is better at spotting sense offending in strangers.
  • Computer Equals Monitor: Preston shoots out a bank of monitors, causing all of Father's propaganda throughout the city to fizzle out.
  • Cool Gun: Lots of them, but special mention goes to modified Beretta pistols used by Clerics. They are concealed under their sleeves and, via cool mechanism hidden there, they can be drawn instantly. That same mechanism allows to reload them both just as quickly. On top of that, they somehow produce a Tetragrammaton logo-shaped shot flares. Oh, and they have those nasty retractable nails in the handle for use in melee combat.
  • Contract on the Hitman: Preston is a highly-trained police officer/executioner for the brutal totalitarian government of Libria. Once he recovers his own emotions and realizes what a monstrous society has been created in the name of peace and tranquility, he becomes a rebel himself and has the authorities gunning for him.
  • Creator Cameo: Director Kurt Wimmer plays one of the Gun Kata practitioners in the beginning of the movie. He also acted as Christian Bale's hand double for some close-up shotsnote .
  • Creepy Child: Preston must keep his sense offenses secret from his own son, who is as creepy as you'd think a boy without emotions would be. It turns out to be an act, as both of Preston's children are also sense offenders.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Is being roasted alive really the most efficient way of disposing of undesirables? Firing squads make sense, chambers of literal fire do not.
  • Cultured Badass: The Big Bad, being a hypocrite, keeps an art collection and reads poetry, quoting Yeats right before the climactic fight. He is also a Gun Kata master.
  • Culture Police: The Grammaton Clerics are an elite police force tasked with destroying all art and killing anyone who possesses art. This was because the dystopian government was attempting to stabilize society by completely eliminating human emotion (why the government needs an elite Gun Kata trained task force to carry this out is never really explained).note 
  • Curiosity Causes Conversion: Though the curiosity only happened because Preston ran out of curiosity-suppressing drugs.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Preston's final fight against Brandt. According to the DVD commentary, the whole film was shot on a tight schedule, and the final confrontation scenes in particular were made in a rush. They actually had planned for a legitimate fight scene between Preston and Brandt, but they simply couldn't get Taye Diggs available in time to do the scene, so they did a pragmatic move and turned the whole thing into a Single-Stroke Battle, with a body double standing in for Diggs.
  • Deadly Euphemism: This exchange:
    John Preston: Then I have no choice but to remand you to the Palace of Justice for processing.
    Mary: "Processing". You mean execution, don't you?
    John Preston: Processing.
  • Death by Cameo: Sean Bean shows up for his usual death scene.
  • Decoy Protagonist: At first it seems like Partridge would be the hero of the story.
  • Diagonal Cut: There's a perfect diagonal cut/slide apart in live action as part of its climactic fight sequence, and the victim is even courteous enough to turn his head to the side so the audience can see his face sliding off. It looks exactly as awesome/stupid as it sounds.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Sense offenders were executed by incineration, no matter how accidentally they feel emotion.
  • Dramatic Deadpan: When Preston prepares for the climactic battle: "No." and "Not without incident."
  • Dramatic Gun Cock:
    • Partridge induces Preston to kill him by cocking the gun in his lap.
    • Just before massacring a whole squadron of Helmet Mooks, Preston pumps two shotguns simultaneously by jerking them back so fast that the shotguns pump themselves.
  • Dull Surprise: Possibly the only film in existence that not only justifies its existence, but makes it a plot driven requirement! Specifically, since everyone is on emotion-suppressing drugs, or at least supposed to be, they either lack the capacity to react to the unexpected otherwise, or have to fake such a (lack of) reaction to avoid being outed as sense offenders.
  • Dystopia: Libria is basically 1984 with Gun Fu. Emotion is Thoughtcrime, all citizens are required to take psychiatric medication to suppress it, and if people resist then the state employs elite supersoldiers to annihilate all the thought-criminals. The Tetragrammaton Clerics are a more ass-kicking version of the firemen from Fahrenheit 451, with a wider remit. (The firemen only destroyed literature, the clerics destroy all art.)
  • Dystopian Edict: "No emotions at all!"
  • Emotion Suppression: People are required to use a drug named Prozium to suppress their emotions. Refusal to administer it is punishable by death.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: Prozium is designed to block out emotions so that there will be no more violent conflict.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: The main character accidentally misses the dose of medication that makes all citizens of Libria emotionless. Next morning he wakes up from a nightmare, and all colors are unusually vibrant. Then he tears off the paper covering the window in his room, and sees the rainbow as a symbol of hope and renewal in this grey Crapsack World.
  • The Evils of Free Will: Father's dogma. Emotions are seen as an enabler and the cause of all of humankind's problems - hate, fear, jealousy, violence - thus Prozium to suppress them all.
  • Evil Wears Black: All clerics and agents of the Tetragrammaton wear exclusively black, up to DuPont with his all black suit, shirt, and tie combo.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Partridge is aware that he's been sense offending, carrying a Yeats book of poetry. He's cool, calm, composed. Constantly, even when faced with death. When Preston becomes suspicious and finds him in the church, he doesn't look up, doesn't bat an eyelid, totally aware that Preston is armed. He even goes so far as to read from one of Yeats' famous poems, 'The Cloths Of Heaven'. He looks up, questioning everything the system stands for, hoping to get Preston to at least understand what's going on before he dies. We find out later from Mary that he was her lover and he secretly fought for the Resistance. The way he says the line below describes how resilient he is, because he doesn't do anything to prevent his own oncoming death despite knowing what was coming for him. He's going to die fighting for a cause and he wants it to stay that way. If it means dying for your beliefs, he's in no denial.
    Partridge: You always knew.
  • Faceless Goons: The Sweepers, who wear either riot gear or storm-coats, but almost always wear closed helmets.
  • First Time Feeling: Hits Preston hard, not least because, at the time, he's found and is listening to an old vinyl album of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, one of the most tremendously moving pieces of music ever produced by the human species. Even the script describes this introduction to human emotion as 'unfair'. (But it does a lot to explain his subsequent actions.)
  • Flat "What": The reaction of the Nethers captain to seeing two of his men killed with their own shotguns. Justified because, like everyone else, he would have been on Prozium and not felt fear at the result.
  • Flock of Wolves: Subverted. It's implied Preston is one of the few Clerics who still is taking Prozium when the movie starts, although, apart from Partridge, he is also the only who openly rebels against the order.
  • Foreshadowing: Several instances:
    • When Preston and Brandt are sparring with wooden swords midway through, Preston gets a quick strike to Brandt's face, setting up his fate at the end of the film.
    • In the beginning of the film, Brandt comments that he needs to stop by an Equilibrium center to have his dose adjusted, meaning he's either under-medicated or over-medicated.
    • John's daughter playing with her cereal near the beginning of the film foreshadows that she is no longer on Prozium, as does his son getting annoyed with her hint that he isn't on it either.
    • DuPont is teaching the Gun Kata class early on because he himself is a master practitioner. Also he refers to the traitor as being "one of us, the Cleric".
    • Jurgen is seen early on at a public broadcast about the dangers of sense offending, letting you know that he actually takes Prozium to maintain his cover.
    • Aside from his perpetual, barely-contained bad mood, DuPont is seen angrily slapping a table during a conversation with Preston, suggesting that he's not on Prozium. Brandt's emotional displays also suggest this.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Preston's Beretta shot flares look like the Tetragrammaton cross logo. The producer himself has stated that it was mostly a wasted effect, as few viewers noticed it.
  • Future Imperfect: When Sweepers discover a dog pen after storming a Resistance hideout, Brandt mentions that this isn't the first time they have come across something like that, but he has no idea why the Resistance members would keep those animals. His wild guess is that they probably eat them.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: The incinerator personnel at the Hall of Justice. In scary black Soviet PBF gas masks.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Father deciding to use an Unwitting Pawn to track down the resistance. It works. It works perfectly.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: Although all of the main characters, both evil and good, wear black for the majority of the film, the climactic final battle sees the protagonist in a stunningly-white ceremonial uniform, while every one of the antagonists he fights — from the motorcycle-helmeted goons to the Big Bad himself — is dressed entirely in black.
  • Good Costume Switch: Preston dons an all white suit before the Final Battle, presumably his parade uniform since he's going to see Father. He even has his sword with him in a white scabbard.
  • Good Guns, Bad Guns: The movie features an interesting, somewhat inverted take on this trope. All mooks of the evil Tetragrammaton regime use NATO firearms like a Beretta 92FS, Heckler & Koch MP5, FN P90, M16 carbine, or Heckler & Koch G36— therefore, "good" guns in Western culture. However, Resistance members are mostly (but not exclusively) seen using Soviet firearms like AK-47 rifle variants or Scorpion machine pistols— therefore, "bad" guns.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The "translucent screen" variation, in the firing squad scene.
  • Government Drug Enforcement: Prozium, an emotion suppression drug, is mandated to all citizens in Libria.
  • Grand Inquisitor Scene: The movie finishes on one of these, with the added bonus that the official doesn't believe it either.
  • Gun Fu: The Grammaton Clerics' signature fighting style combines this and Gun Kata.
  • Gun Kata: The Trope Maker and Trope Namer. The Grammaton Clerics use this as a scientifically-proven Gun Fu fighting style, basically Xanatos Speed Chess with guns. The style was choreographed by a Karate expert, and you can see the Clerics often adopt very karate-like stances while practicing or fighting. However, Preston and DuPont are the only ones we see doing any actual Gun Kata: Partridge is deliberately letting Preston do all the work, Brandt's only on-screen shooting is with an assault rifle, and none of the other Clerics bother.
  • Guns Akimbo: John Preston wields dual pistols (Berettas) and is quite literally untouchable by mooks. In an early scene, he jumps into a crossfire and stands calmly in one place (then again, with emotions held under check, he can't quite panic or anything) while the opposition fires away with automatic weaponry and fails to hit him. The film attempts to explain this by inventing a fighting style known as Gun Kata, which teaches its practitioners to seek out locations in a fight where there is minimum probability of getting shot at (and it's not just "behind cover"). In a later fight, Preston reloads by a mechanism that inserts fresh magazines into the guns from his sleeves.
  • The Gunslinger: Grammaton Clerics, the foremost and most elite soldier of the Librian regime.
  • Heroic Bloodshed: Following a lawman's struggle between loyalty to his regime and the righteous outlaws... and lots and lots of bullets.
  • Heroic BSoD: John suffers quite a few times: in a flashback, after his wife's immolation, despite being on Prozium, reliving the memories after withdrawing from Prozium, and then after Mary's execution.
  • Heroic Second Wind: Noticeably averted, with the hero killing the Big Bad without breaking a sweat, and the only concession to show that the Big Bad is a credible threat is that he doesn't die instantly, unlike everyone else that came before. In the commentary the director even mentions this trope, and states he thinks it's stupid and unnecessary for the hero to lose to the Big Bad in round 1 because the audience already knows the hero is going to win anyway.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Tetragrammaton planned to use Preston as bait for the Resistance leaders. It works too well— he joins the Resistance and turns on them.
  • Hope Spot
    • Preston rushes to the execution chamber to prevent Mary's death, but arrives seconds too late.
    • Preston's revolution was a trap set up by the authority.
  • Huge Holographic Head: Messages from the leader of the totalitarianist regime, "Father", do this with massive screens throughout the city. Subverted in that the real Father died years before. DuPont has been impersonating him since then.
  • Humans Are Flawed: The entire reason for the plot was that human emotions were a flaw and the cause of 'man's inhumanity to man.' The ending, while portrayed positively, never exactly comes clear on whether restoring human emotion is a good thing.
  • Hypocrite: Vice-Council DuPont rules the totalitarian Libria by forcing everyone to suppress their emotions with a drug called Prozium. When Preston raids his office in the climax, it is decorated with fine art that wasn't incinerated, and DuPont outright states that he is a Sense Offender himself in a last-ditch appeal to stop Preston from shooting. Since the original leader Father died years ago, it's unknown if he was also a hypocrite or not, but it's also perfectly possible.
  • Idiot Ball.
    • The Big Bad lets Preston, the highly trained Cleric who has killed multiple Faceless Goons and proven himself a serious threat, walk into the main headquarters without even bothering to search him for weaponry. He then tells Preston the master plan, and as soon as his villainous monologue ends, Preston pulls out some firearms and fights his way to the boss's room. In a deleted scene, it would've shown earlier that the metal detectors are at the next door Preston walks through after taking the lie-detector, which raises the question of why they put the anti-gun security measure there instead of before the room they planned to spring their trap in.
    • In addition to just shooting Preston after they captured the Resistance, they also could have shot him up with more Prozium to remove his emotions again.
  • Individuality Is Illegal: Along with the emotion suppression, one of Father's many broadcasted lectures says that his government strives to abolish individuality, with every person living a life of perfect unity with everyone else. From what's seen, the law-abiding members of society do seem to live very similar (very drab, empty) lives. The "sense offenders" who break their law by not taking the drug Prozium to suppress emotions ultimately take this down through their resistance, leading to an armed revolt.
  • Interesting Situation Duel: The climax features a gun duel. It's awesome by virtue of the range being two feet; the combatants fire at each other with pistols while simultaneously trying to hit the other's gun away.
  • Invincible Hero: Preston. The director finds it boring when the villain "gets a few good licks in" on the hero because he has no intention of implying a Bad Guy Wins ending, and thus, there's no point in making it seem like the villain has an advantage at all when the result is a foregone conclusion. He does acknowledge that not everyone likes this approach. And yet, for all his physical invincibility, he turns out to be incredibly emotionally vulnerable.
  • In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves
    Father: Intrinsically humans, as creatures of the Earth, were drawn inherently always back to one thing, war. And thus we seek to correct not the symptom, but the disease itself. We have sought to shrug off individuality, replacing it with conformity. Replacing it with sameness, with unity, allowing each man, woman, and child in this great society to lead identical lives.
  • Irony: The culmination of the film involves Preston, an agent of the Resistance, attaining what the Tetragrammaton has been seeking since its founding — total emotional mastery — without Prozium. Unfortunately for the Tetragrammaton, this control manifests as the ability to channel his near-volcanic anger into an awesome display of precision ass-kicking.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: There is no good reason for DuPont's personal guards to carry katanas.
  • Kick the Dog: The Sweepers are shown gunning down fleeing and captured Resistance members, and dogs.
  • Knight Templar: The government of Libria, who believe themselves to be upholding what is good for humanity by destroying all works of art and suppressing all emotions, in exchange to bringing peace and equality to the land.
  • Judge, Jury, and Executioner: The Clerics, who are authorized to carry out neutralizations - or at least lead firing squads - against Sense Offenders, and judging from John's protests after his Prozium withdrawal, are allowed to process offenders in any way they see fit.
  • Land of One City: The state of Libria seems to be just one city and its environs.
  • La Résistance: Who else but the aptly named "Resistance"?
  • Licked by the Dog: Several minutes after Preston cries at Beethoven, a puppy licks his face and brings out his compassion— to the point where he ends up killing a dozen men after he decides to keep it.
  • Little "No": "No. Not without incident."
  • Living Is More than Surviving: Mary's stated reason for being a sense offender; John, notably, is unable to provide a satisfactory answer to her question of why he's alive, likely because he's never actually thought about it.
  • The Lost Lenore: John's wife was executed in the past. This is one of the elements that prompt John to become a rebel.
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: Brandt, who is Preston's partner and had been trained with him in Gun Kata over the course of the film, was very easily killed by Preston in a showdown with only a single blow from a katana. Subverted with the Big Bad DuPont, who is revealed to be a lot stronger than any of the forces Preston had killed.
  • The Man in Front of the Man: The dystopian state of Libria is ruled by a mysterious figure known only as "Father", who delegates much of his authority to Vice Council DuPont, who acts as "Father's Voice". At the end, it's revealed that Father died several years ago and they've been using his image for propaganda purposes. The Council simply elected DuPont himself to de facto assume the responsibilities of Father's office.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • Near the end, DuPont echoes the Yeats poem that Partridge was reading near the beginning: "You're treading on my dreams."
    • Before shooting Partridge, Preston mentions the anger and hatred felt by sense offenders. Partridge replies, "A heavy cost. I pay it gladly." When DuPont asks Preston whether killing a feeling human is worth the price, guess how Preston replies?
    • When Brandt is sparring with Preston, he states that "it's my job to know what you're thinking". When Preston finds out his son is also feeling and knew that he became a sense offender, the son says "you forget, it's my job to know what you're thinking."
    • When Preston starts following Partridge's path, he repeats some of his excuses. "They miss things, sometimes..."
  • Meaningful Name: "Libria", the name of the totalitarian state, is close to "Libra", balance in Latin, evoking what they claim as their aim— social harmony. So does Equilibrium, which in the film is the center where the emotion-suppressing Prozium is issued to citizens.
    • Likewise John Preston, evoking the mythical figure Prester John. His last name means priest (priest town, really), referring to his rule as a Cleric, and Prester John was the legendary ruler of a Christian nation in the mysterious east, hinting at John's role in leading the revolution to success.
  • Mobstacle Course: Preston does this at least twice, one time without a real purpose besides just wanting to be alone.
  • Mona Lisa Smile: The Mona Lisa is one of the paintings which is captured and burned in the opening. Adding to the tragedy is that the main character, initially a ruthless enforcer of the totalitarian regime, has no idea about the significance of it.
  • Monumental Damage: On a small scale. Although all art is forbidden, the cache of art that is found and burned includes The Mona Lisa, perhaps the most famous and recognizable painting in the world.
  • Mook Chivalry: A fair number of gun battles Preston engages in run on this, as he preoccupies himself with a small portion of the total number of armed enemies while the ones he's not dealing with do nothing until he's close enough to put them down.
  • Mortal Wound Reveal: Happens to The Dragon Brandt.
  • Mouth of Sauron: Libria dictator "Father" is all over the television, but almost no one meets him personally. Vice-Council DuPont is explicitly described as "Father's Voice." Turns out to be a subversion—the real Father died years before, and DuPont is actually running things while pretending to be the Mouth of Sauron.
  • Murder by Cremation: Any imprisoned "sense offenders" eventually suffer this fate. Preston witnesses this first-hand when he sees Mary's execution.
  • The Musketeer: Clerics are trained to use swords in addition to guns and Preston shows his mastery of both in the climax.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • When Preston rewatches the recording of his wife's incineration, this time being able to feel. His face becomes a mask of complete and utter horror when he sees how he had just stood then, uncaring and cold, while she had been sent to a gruesome fiery death.
    • Earlier than that, the first time he kills a man after he goes off Prozium.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers make it seem like Preston's wife was arrested recently and his motivation is pure revenge.
  • Nothing Up My Sleeve: Not only does Preston keep his guns up his sleeves, he also has a mechanism that will reload his weapons with fresh magazines from up his sleeves.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: The leadership of Libria still runs with the propaganda that their totalitarian dystopia is necessary to stamp out human conflict, but if they ever did believe in it themselves, by the point of the film they are just interested in perpetuating their own power and consider themselves above the rules they set for others. DuPont is a sense offender, and Brandt at least behaves a lot like one.
  • Offhand Backhand: Pretty much any shot Preston makes falls under this trope, since Gun Kata eliminates the need to actually aim.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The technician administering Preston's polygraph test, when the machine flatlines.
    • Also the Puppy dog shootout scene:
      Sweeper 1: Oh—!
      Sweeper 2:Fuck!
      [BLAM BLAM]
      Sweeper Captain: What?
      Sweeper Captain: Ah shit, shoot him shoot him shoot him!
    • DuPont gets progressively more unnerved as he watches Preston defeat each layer of his defenses. The look on his face when John dispatches an entire team of his personal, katana-wielding bodyguards in about five seconds is just priceless.
  • One-Man Army: Preston. He smashes his way through every obstacle put before him and racks up a massive kill count over the course of the film.
  • The Only Believer: Downplayed. Preston is unlikely to be the only user of Prozium in the regime at the beginning of the film, but it turns out all those who seemed the most loyal adepts of the Anti-Emotion doctrine actually abandoned their dosages a long time ago: his son started doing it since the death of his wife, DuPont can also do it because he is the most powerful person in Libria, Brandt is probably also free of Prozium too given his great pleased smiles, and many of the mooks that Preston kills shout exclammations of fear. All in all, it's perfectly possible that true Prozium users are a minority in Libria and everybody else just pretends to be.
  • Pendulum War: The minute Preston stops the broadcasts from Father, the previously completely ineffective sense offenders Zerg Rush the Sweepers with zero casualties observed.
  • Pet the Dog: Done literally, as a first.
  • Pistol-Whipping:
    • The scene where Preston tries to let the sense-offenders escape. The resulting beatdown leaves several Sweepers dead.
    • It plays into the Gun Kata principle that the whole gun is a weapon, and the gun even has retractable spikes on the grip bottom for maximum pain.
  • Pose of Supplication: Preston collapses after seeing Mary burned alive... and it's how he's caught.
  • Posthumous Character: Father turns out to have died years ago, with DuPont impersonating him via hologram and taking his place as leader of Libria.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: See the Oh, Crap! entry.
  • Praetorian Guard: The dictator of Libria is protected by a special cadre of katana-wielding soldiers when Preston breaks down the door to his office. They're completely ineffectual against Preston, however.
  • Precious Puppy: Preston rescues one after his withdrawal from Prozium.
  • Propaganda Machine: Father's lectures are constantly being broadcasted around Libria, from giant TV screens on outside walls of buildings, inside homes or work places and on the zeppelins flying overhead. At least we see that those in the home can be turned off, unlike in Nineteen Eighty-Four. In the finale, Preston destroys the control center for this, shutting them all down.
  • Putting on the Reich: Libria, whose Hitler Youth-esque candidates for Cleric training wear very fascist-inspired outfits, as well as the basic soldiers consisting of either riot police or helmeted goons in Gestapo-esque trenchcoats. The flag of Libria is also very similar to the Nazi flag. Moreover, the film was shot in several buildings of the Nazi era (the Olympic Stadium of Berlin, Deutschlandhalle, and Berlin Tempelhof Airport).
  • Rage Within the Machine: At first, Partridge, Preston's partner... and then Preston himself, at first trying to get the regime to soften its heavy-handed execution of all Sense Offenders, and eventually openly rebelling.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking: After depending entirely on his bodyguards previously, DuPont demonstrates in his fight scene with Preston that he's an extremely proficient Gun Kata fighter. This is foreshadowed by DuPont delivering the exposition about Gun Kata in the first third of the film, and later by DuPont talking about the rumour that "one of us, the Cleric" had turned.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Mary gives one (with a dose of What the Hell, Hero?) to Preston during her interrogation.
  • Rejected Apology: Partridge, upon being outed as a sense offender, rejects Preston's apology for what's going to happen to him not out of any malice, but because he knows that Preston can't actually mean it.
    Preston: Then I'm sorry.
    Partridge: No you're not. You don't even know the meaning. It's just a vestigial word for a feeling you've never felt.
  • Reverse Grip: Preston sparring with Brandt and, later, fighting the guards surrounding Father in the finale.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Preston carries this out— minus the "roaring" part, of course.
  • Rule of Cool: Most of the gunfights follow this.
    • The very idea of Gun Kata is that, through analysis of thousands of gunfights, it has been determined that the positioning of enemies can be abstracted down to statistical probabilities. Thus, Clerics employ martial arts poses to fire at where their enemies are most likely to be without needing to aim, while simultaneously positioning themselves to make themselves a smaller target. It does not take much thought to recognize that this principle would really not actually work. Further, many of Preston's usages of Gun Kata, while looking very stylized and flashy, would not be very practical.
    • Through the film, Conservation of Ninjutsu and Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy are in effect to ensure that, no matter how many enemies Preston faces, they will either never fire at him or will be terrible shots. This is particularly pronounced in the final action sequence, where dozens of guards don't even have their weapons in-hand when Preston arrives (even though the Big Bad knew he was coming), and they either don't shoot at Preston or can't hit him even though he's in full unobstructed view in a brightly lit hallway.
    • Also, in that final action sequence, Preston throws a pair of weighted ammo clips down the hall, and they somehow land in the exact right position for him to drop down and reload his guns when he needs them. Not to mention Preston has room up his sleeves both for his guns and auto-reloading mechanisms holding extra clips that slot perfectly into his guns when he tilts them the right way.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • Probably the only reason the drug ampules look like bullets and the drug is injected with an apparatus that looks like a gun.
    • Viviana's execution robe is blood red, the color of martyrs.
    • Father extols Prozium as the "opiate of the masses", a frequent variation on Karl Marx's view of religion as the "opium of the people".
    • Check out the Tetragrammaton muzzle flashes.
  • Same Story, Different Names: Writer-director Kurt Wimmer's follow-up project Ultraviolet (2006) rehashed most of the basic elements of this film. William Fichtner even appears in both.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Apparently, once you are far enough up the ranks, taking Prozium is not required.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The Librian TV operators' response to Preston's Death Glare.
  • Shadow Dictator: Inspired by 1984, "Father" is the mysterious and omnipresent dictator of Libria. Though we do see broadcasts featuring him, they are faked, since the original Father died, and Du Pont was chosen to replace him.
  • Sheath Strike: Preston does this near the end of the film, impaling two mooks at the same time with a katana and its saya. It helps that, during the fight, the saya had been sliced to a point by another mook's katana.
  • Shirtless Scene
  • Shoo the Dog: Preston tries to shoo away a puppy he saved, but the puppy refuses to leave him and keeps barking and scratching the side of the car as he tries to leave. Preston eventually allows the puppy to stay and hides it in the trunk of the car. He then defeats an entire army of Clerics singlehandedly after the puppy was discovered. No one messes with Preston's puppy.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Played with, in an almost-realistic portrayal.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The shots of the workers going to work in the morning, hanging their head, in similar clothes, is reminiscent of similar shots in Metropolis (1927) by Fritz Lang.
    • Preston wields his katana in a Reverse Grip similar to Zatoichi.
    • Fifteen seconds before the end of the movie features an explosion amidst the city reflected in Preston's eye. Sound familiar?
  • Showy Invincible Hero: Preston all the way. We have no doubt he's going to win every battle he's in, and the story follows his journey to understand his own emotions.
  • Single-Stroke Battle: Preston's fight with Brandt.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Mary is the only female in the main cast.
  • Sociopathic Hero: The film both justifies and deconstructs this trope via Preston.
  • Steel Eardrums: Guns go off right next to characters' heads repeatedly. This never leads to any real consequences.
  • Stock Lateral Thinking Puzzle:
    Polygraph Operator: "How would you say would be the easiest way to take a weapon away from a Grammaton Cleric?"
    Brandt: "You ask him for it."
  • Stock Quotes: The film's chosen poetry snippet is the last few lines of "Aed Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven" by Yeats:
    But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
    I have spread my dreams under your feet;
    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
  • The Stoic: After starting as one, Preston quickly turns Not So Stoic as he struggles with having and hiding emotions. He even suffers a Heroic BSoD, but becomes The Stoic again before the final battle.
  • Straw Hypocrite: DuPont and (likely) Brandt aren't on Prozium. In the commentary, the director explains that this was done because most people assume that breaking their own laws is one thing all tyrants have in common, and he cast Taye Diggs as Brandt partly because of his giant smile.
  • Straw Vulcan: The ideological mainstream believes that emotion creates "man's inhumanity to man"; any attempt to evoke feelings in oneself or others is punishable by summary execution.
  • Surprisingly Moving Song: John Preston uncovers a secret stash of emotionally-stimulating contraband (literature, art, music, etc) and he takes the time to listen to an old record of Ludwig van Beethoven. Having spent most of his life under an emotion-suppressing drug enforced by the state, it moves him to tears.
  • Take That!:
    • The way items are rated, banned, and destroyed is a dig at the MPAA rating system.
    • Somewhat less subtle is Father extolling "the revolutionary precept of the hate crime"— as in, dubbing the "hate" the important part of the "crime", which makes Thoughtcrime Not So Crazy Anymore.
  • Tear Off Your Face: Preston kills Brandt by slicing his face off with a katana.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Pretty much the philosophy driving the movie. Aside from the overkill in combat, you really don't need dual flamethrowers to destroy a single painting.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Preston, once he goes off the Prozium.
  • Thoughtcrime: "Sense Offense". People are burned alive simply for experiencing emotion, while things such as art or poetry which can spark our emotions are also illegal. They're also burned when confiscated.
  • Tin Man: Many of Preston's opponents who are supposedly on Prozium display plenty of emotions, Oh, Crap! being a favorite. This is foreshadowing that they aren't on it.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The Sweepers in the Nethers scene. Do not try to use your Walther WA2000 within three feet of a known Gun Kata expert, never mind that if you do fire you'll probably kill your mate standing on his opposite side.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: "Not without incident." The trailer doesn't provide enough context for it to be a real spoiler, but you'll know where it's coming in the movie, and it was clearly intended to be unexpected.
  • Tranquil Fury:
    • Four words: "No. Not without incident."
    • To be precise, the moment the polygraph flatlined. It was meant to indicate Preston entering a state of 'mushin' (no-mind, common among highly trained martial artists before combat), essentially shutting off unnecessary systems and diverting all brain processing power to asskicking mode. Yes, he was literally so furious that his mind become perfectly clear.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: The arrest and execution of Preston's wife. Bonus points for her being more colorful than everything else in the memory.
  • Tyrannicide: John Preston commits it when he kills Vice-Counsel DuPont, who became the real leader of Libria after Father passed away.
  • Undercrank: This gets quite noticeable in some fight scenes.
  • Unorthodox Reload:
    • Preston has some sort of device up his sleeves (literally) that will reload his pistols for him when they run empty.
    • During the final shootout, Preston is confronted by a hallway of machine-gun Mooks. He throws two magazines of ammunition halfway down the hallway, then starts shooting, running out of ammo exactly where the two magazines landed, reloads and continues gunning 'em down.
    • And the one guy assuming his Walther WA2000 is a shotgun, racking a nonexistent pump.
  • Unwitting Pawn: As it turns out, Preston is the first success in trying to locate and destroy the resistance— DuPont had been trying for ages to find the source of the resistance by slipping in an inside man... but he found out it would be easier to follow Preston's attempts to contact the resistance.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The Tetragrammaton Council (and Father) think of the lack of emotion among Libria's populace as a fair trade for the near-eradication of all crime. It's later revealed, however, that at least DuPont and probably many more are secret hypocrites about this.
  • Vicious Cycle: The downfall of the Tetragrammaton Council and Prozium at the end of the film opens up the high probability of the re-occurrence of all the unrestrained negative emotions, crime, violence, and fears that drove the creation of the regime in the first place... assuming that a majority of citizens actually were taking their Prozium.
  • Villain Protagonist: Subverted. Preston starts as a servant of the Librian government, but pulls a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Wham Shot: A few occur in quick succession right before the climax. Brandt, who was supposedly arrested and processed after getting framed by Preston, appears next to him at the start of interrogation, revealing it was all just a part of the plan. Then Father appears on the screen in front of Preston, claiming he's been used as an Unwitting Pawn from the beginning. And when John expresses his doubt how Father knew about him if they never met, the image on screen dissolves into... the face of DuPont, who's been secretly ruling Libria himself while posing as Father this entire time.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: In the finished film, the emotion-deadening drug is called "Prozium"; in at least some drafts of the script, it was instead named "Librium".
  • Zeppelins from Another World: In the background, though they're never given any focus.


Video Example(s):


Equilibrium - Puppy Shootout

After the discovery of the puppy in his trunk, Preston, who is trained specifically in fighting with guns, engages in a firefight against a team of officers and takes them all out before they can begin to form a counterattack.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / GunKata

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