I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Steel Frontier

tn_steelfrontierThe Steel Frontier is a post-apocalyptic wasteland, alot like the place in ROAD WARRIOR, but filmed in California. It’s the kind of place where you might find a legless man out in the middle of the desert and have to put the poor guy out of his misery. Or you might find a small town where everybody acts kind of like they’re in a western, and a bunch of asshole bullies on motorcycles and souped up post-apocalypse-mobiles might drive into town and start fucking shit up and laughing about it.

That’s exactly what happens here, this guy General Quantrell (Brion James) rolls in with his “desert scum,” goes into the barber shop and gets a nice warm shave while his boys terrorize the place. They drag people behind their motorcycles, machine gun random people and cars, punch guys in the face, blow up buildings, set people on fire, do awesome motorcycle jumps through windows, bodyslam people, switch out the flag with their own, etc. They’re nicknamed “the Death Riders” but officially “The United Regime,” supposedly “the only civilized order in an otherwise savage land.” Well, we can agree with the second part I guess.

mp_steelfrontierAnyway, Quantrell shoots the sheriff and then has the barber finish his shave. With the town conquered he takes off, leaving his son Junior in charge. This doesn’t sit that well with Bo Svenson, who stands around watching the mayhem from his porch and doesn’t seem to agree with it, but turns out to be one of the leaders of the Regime.

Now it’s kind of like a western so they need some dude, a “rogue drifter” they seem to call them, to stroll into town and help the people to rise up or whatever. That man is played by Joe Lara and apparently his character is named Yuma, but I only noticed him introducing himself as “No One Special,” which would be a good “Man With No Name” type of non-name for a guy like this.

No One Special has many of the qualities of a badass. He wears black and a cowboy hat and he drives a motorcycle that shits bombs and fires a gatling gun by voice command (he just has to yell “Angel!”, even when he’s not riding it and just has it parked nearby). He has a high tech sniper scope that he uses to hunt himself a possum and when it turns out to have high radiation readings he eats it anyway. See, he’s fearless.

When he gets captured by the Regime and they want to know why he’s snooping around he claims he was “Just amblin’.” Then he beats them all at poker (I don’t really understand how these tough guys also have impossible luck so they can get a royal flush every time. It acts like getting a good hand at poker is something that happens automatically if you’re awesome. Not one of my favorite movie cliches). Like Yojimbo or The Man With No Name he joins their team in order to defeat them, but unlike either of those guys he lets them brand him and jump him in.

His gun skills are as ridiculous as his poker skills. When he has a showdown he not only draws faster on the guy, he shoots the gun out of his hand and then repeatedly shoots it while it’s in the air, bouncing it up again and again like he’s playing hackysack with it. And the theory of badass juxtaposition is in effect here too. He plays a bluesy harmonica version of “My Country Tis of Thee” and it causes him to tear up. I guess the regualar pre-steel frontier wasn’t all that long ago. He remembers America.

The problem though, the thing that keeps this from being a great movie in my opinion, is Joe Lara. Nothing against him, I’m sure he’s a nice guy and all that. I never heard of him but apparently he’s best known for playing Tarzan in the TV series “Tarzan: The Epic Adventures,” and is in a bunch of B-movies like AMERICAN CYBORG: STEEL WARRIOR and two of the OPERATION DELTA FORCE movies (playing different characters), but quit acting in 2002 to become a country singer. And for real, not like some Joaquin Phoenix deal. But he’s playing a spaghetti western type anti-hero here and unfortunately does not have the type of presence or look you need to fill in for Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef or Franco Nero. His look is more Michael Bolton, with his curly hair down past his shoulders. I’d expect him to be painted on the cover of a romance novel and make women swoon, but not put enough fear in the heart of Quantrell Jr. that he calls him “Sir.” I think the long hair and beard are supposed to make him look like Jesus, but I don’t know man. I don’t approve. He’s not cutting it.

I kind of feel sorry for him though because although the cover of the American DVD shows his face (long hair tastefully obscured behind large gun) it doesn’t say his name, it says:

BO SVENSON
KANE HODDER
BRION JAMES
as “General J.W. Quantrell”

Even the name of Brion James’s character is more important than the name of the star of the movie! I have to admit, though, they got my number. His name on the cover would’ve meant nothing, but seeing those three names on there it actually sounds like a good cast to me. You know how I feel about the WALKING TALL sequels, and that makes it seem like he’s the main character. Hodder, by the way, plays another “rogue drifter,” basically a thug role with little or no dialogue (I can’t remember for sure whether it was little or no, but I think it was little). He does get his face shown more than he usually does in movies, where he’s generally a stuntman. If you don’t know what he looks like you’ll spot him because of a corny in-joke, he’s wearing a knit cap with a patch of a Jason-style hockey mask on the front.

Most of the characters here act like extras on a made-for-TV western, but you also got some post-apocalyptic type maniacs. There’s one character credited as “Chickenboy” who you really want to turn into some McNuggets. I don’t know if he’s supposed to be retarded or brain damaged from radiation or what but he wears a bunch of feathers around his neck and he jumps around giggling and repeating what other people say. It’s also implied that one of the soldier dudes punks him out, which is weird because there seem to be plenty of women around, it’s not a prison type situation. And if you prefer the company of gentlemen it seems like you could do better than Chickenboy. But I don’t know man, affairs of the heart and all that. I won’t interfere.

There’s another wasteland crazy that made me laugh though, when he’s busting into some place and menacing a woman, and her husband says “Why don’t you just leave us alone?” this guy gets upset and whines, “I am TRYIN’ to IMPRESS the girl, MAN!”

(Don’t worry, nobody gets ravaged. It’s PG-13, somehow. I’m not sure how, but it is. Pillaging is okay in PG-13, but ravaging is not.)

There are plenty of good moments and ideas. The attack on the town has a good amount of crashes and explosions, and so does the chase between the motorcycle and the Road Warrior cars. Bo Svenson is mostly wasted, but not entirely because he gets one really great fight scene where he uses his grappling skills against a pack of desert savages called “roach eaters.” I also like the idea that even in a postapocalyptic world there’s gonna be religious people talking about “the end is near,” although it would’ve gone down better without another character pointing out the ridiculousness of it. And the movie definitely has some commentary about the impossibility of a large military force occupying a place where the local resistence will never surrender. It could be about us in Vietnam, the Russians in Afghanistan, us in Afghanistan, or alot of other conflicts.

So there’s alot to offer here. It’s just too bad about that lead. All they had to do was get Lance Henriksen or somebody and this could’ve been some kind of minor classic. Despite that major weakness I gotta give it credit for elbow grease beyond the call of duty in the action and mayhem departments. You can see some of that in the trailer below, and the way the narrator tells it this movie is fucking incredible. He’s almost convincing me.

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Thanks to none other than The Artist Formerly Known as AU Armageddon for recommending this one to me. Kinda weird that an Australian is telling an American to watch an American rip-off of an Australian classic. Maybe he’s trying to promote peace and cultural understanding before STEEL FRONTIER becomes a reality.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, November 29th, 2010 at 1:56 am and is filed under Action, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

17 Responses to “Steel Frontier”

  1. Nice trailer :)
    I like movies in which they throw over old wooden tables for cover in a gunfight. Thats a movie cliche i can get behind.

  2. This looks fantastic. I can’t believe this film has never been bought to my attention, thanks Vern. How about a round up of post apocalypse wanna be Mad Max movies?

  3. So Joe Lara quit movies to become a country artist… does that mean one might convince a lot of actors that they should quit movies and start a country-music career instead?

    Because that sounds GREAT. And I don’t mean that because I listen to country music.

    And let’s not limit ourselves to actors.
    Hey, Michael Bay… did you know you’d make an AWESOME country musician? Here, have a free hat.

  4. I remember working on this indie film around, I guess, 2000–and this veteran stuntman (if I remember correctly, he’d worked on STROKER ACE, POLICE STORY, DAYS OF THUNDER and CASINO, among others) (and yes, he had that Stuntman Mike, LA / Vegas slicked-back hair and leather jacket aging-stud vibe for sure) telling me one day that the only place anybody really did big, elaborate, on-set live stunt sequences anymore was in low-budget B movies. Sadly, this is no longer really true anymore. But that trailer reminded me of it….

    P.S.: He had nothing but bad memories of working for Micheal Mann.

  5. Quantrell shoots the sheriff. But he doesn’t kill the deputy. There’s your PG13 right there.

    Ace Mac Ashbrook: Vern reviews of TANK GIRL and BARBED WIRE could only make the world a better place.

  6. I’ll tell you what is a minor post-apocolypic movie, World Gone Wild. It is directed by the guy who directed those two 80s dirty dozen films but this one is legit good. It stars Bruce Dern, Michael Pare and Adam F’N Ant as the main bad guy. It’s great and Vern will enjoy it a lot I bet.

  7. Here is an awesome bit of World Gone Wild trivia: The original version implied that the dangerous cult based itself on one of the few books remaining after the holocaust: L. Ron Hubbard’s “Dianetics.” Lawyers for Scientology got wind of this and threatened to sue Apollo Pictures, who removed all references to Hubbard and Dianetics.

  8. Lawrence: So what you’re saying is that WORLD GONE WILD isn’t a sequel to GIRLS GONE WILD.

  9. That trailer makes this movie seem awesome. I have a real affection for all those 80s italian Mad Max rip-offs, shot at the bottom of gravel pits. I even have a few on VHS. I don’t recall seeing World Gone Wild. Was it ever known by a different title?

  10. It’s hard to believe watching that trailer this was only made 15 years ago. The only thing that implies otherwise is the inclusion of extreme sports, such as the guy run-abseilling down a wall.
    Speaking of Quasi-westerns, I saw this trailer in front of Machete last week for THE WARRIOR’S WAY
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Z8xYMomsDc
    Probably not that good, but I do like the look of Geoffrey Rush’s character in it, saying “Ninjas…daamn” as if he knows exactly what they are.

  11. Damn, I miss PM Entertainment Group. Those guys were great at making low-budget DTV with impressive old-school action — they were like the Cannon Films of the 90’s. They also had an interesting choice in their action leads; for every actioner starring Gary Daniels, Jeff Wincott and Don “The Dragon” Wilson, you had one starring William Forsythe, Steve Railsback or Dennis Farina.

  12. Vern – I’m surprised you haven’t gotten around to reviewing STEEL DAWN, that Patrick Swayze SHANE remake meets MAD MAX rip-off.

  13. That WARRIOR’S WAY trailer needs less green screen but more eskimo ninjas.

  14. AU_Armageddon (formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known as AU_Armageddon)

    August 24th, 2011 at 8:42 am

    Hiya Vern,

    Ta for reviewing this. Mebbe woulda been polite to thank you earlier, but really I gotta just say fuck you on that point Vern. So FUCK YOU, k. I am a man of justice so lemme be fair here and include in on this the festering cum junkie parasites that feed here – see Vern and I had some words and it boiled down to him asking me what it takes to change the essence of a man. I been readin’ here still, most every day, and the blind fucking tard ameoba who swarm here still rape my soul with their very fucking existence, but I hadda take it hard as it were, till I figured out the answer to Vern’s question.

    Before I answer, I wanna let you know Vern that this journey has taken me a real lot of motherfucking time. And add that I use forums and gaming zones all over the fucking place, and that despite being well fused prominently into the fabric of these communities, that I am a seriously vicious and aggressive cunt everywhere I go, so you gotta appreciate that this path has been a pretty fucking awkard one. Especially as I ended up having to withdraw from everywhere to figure out the answer. Again, fuck you Vern, really.

    See, I thought for a long while that mebbe it doesn’t fit – I am a trauma counsellor, mostly rape but lots of nasty or just depressive shit, and – since Vern first posed the question, am now also often the manager of a support agency. I got kids, 3/3 with disabilities, used to volunteer on suicide lines in spare time but nowadays volunteer spendin nights talkin wife beaters into taking responsibility for their actions etc. i.e. I prolly rank pretty high on the human fund scale or whatever. I am very good at that stuff and use the right language, demeanor etc. for maximum effect.- and thus perhaps something of an ugly and more honest version of your beloved Juxtaposition at work here.

    See, I fucking hate people. I absolutely hate stupid and especially uninformed people like most that comment here (by here i mean the internet as well as Vern.com). Long back, I used to break into houses, rob people, etc. but had a code that mostly never affected the undeserving, which would have excluded everyone who posts comments here. To be fair, I didnt attack people except in self defence which involved severe trauma to the stupid. I was in my youth permanently outraged by apathy though, and planned seriously but never quite reached executing massacres in some detail back then. Perhaps one day I should write a book called why we hate you or sumthin useful. My brother same – except instead a brutal man initiating hundreds of savage and debilitating assaults. People who see that though dun see the little kid being carried 2 blocks by his hair punched in the face the whole walk so much that he looked like roast beef. Or the many, many stupid who OKed it everyday.

    You would think with that that mebbe I am go for sympathy vote or sum dumb fucking shit that various knobs here might presume to. But no – my point is Vern that juxtaposition is not just a fancy turn of phrase, it’s in all fairness, more often than not, reality – in my experience badass juxtaposition is, for the many who wouldn’t insult you by posting here, a way of life.

    And thus, the answer to the question – can you change the essence of a man? No Vern, you cannot.* What one year of exploration and contemplation has taught me is that you really are what you are. And at the end of the day – I am an asshole. I seriously help a fuckload of people – and in meaningful ways that most people here will very unfortunately never experience. And I make many sacrifices to do that, and do it entirely selflessly. And simultaneously, I really seriously enjoy denigrating, demystifying, and annihilating stupid and often stupidly negative people, such as those who congregate here.

    But for pure sake of completion – finally, and still importantly, I also enjoy a stimulating argument with persons of reasonable skill – potentially respecting them above others even regardless of their moral centre – sometimes respecting purely nasty and negative people, and yet above and beyond all that, often enjoy just stomping a really stupid person (such as Paul for example, as very well exampled with this parentheses lol) for no reason other than the fact that they dared to post anywhere despite the fact that they are stupid and should know that – which I feel quite sure as a champion of justice is not something I would ever do even if I were equally stupid or made stupid due to industrial accident etc (libertarian juxtaposition elements of this paragraph not to be confused with the badass juxtaposition).

    I agreed to be somebody I was not for the betterment of Vern.com and I have taken something from that. I feel altered by this journey and thus still need a new name to replace the AU_Armageddon / Armageddon Unlimited that has carried me for over a decade now (still struggling on that front). However, I cannot stop being. I feel one year of sucking up all the shitty vomitous posts here without comment while questing for the truth represents reasonably holding my end of the bargain. However, the truth is at hand and the deal is over. I must now resume where I left off, attempting critical debate, but potentially just taunting sexuality and evolutionary inachievements instead. Or perhaps after one year of not posting, I will find myself as impotent as this flock, or worse yet, finally apathetic myself.

    *I stand by this statement with an additional qualifier of spending significant time assisting mens behavioural change programs. The common essence in all these men who abuse women and children is that they don’t want to. They almost all have an ethical striving far beyond who they are. They spend many weeks learning how to be who they really are – with my role as merely a mirror reflecting that person for them. The evil (anti-social personality disorder) are inherently evil and you can’t change that either. Every one of them leaves with exactly the essence of the man they are, just as they entered, but merely with a better potential to express it.

  15. Jareth Cutestory

    August 24th, 2011 at 8:57 am

    In fairness, AU, your soul was asking for it. It shouldn’t have dressed so promiscuously.

    New name suggestion: Snuggle Muffin.

  16. It’s good to have you back?

    I hope you’re doing well, AU. I truly appreciate all the effort and openness.

  17. AU_Armageddon (formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known as AU_Armageddon)

    August 26th, 2011 at 6:07 am

    Funny how a simple ‘thank-you’ gets filtered after 15 beers. I am well ta, you know, alcohol abuse and rage aside. Technically I never left… just no posting anywhere for a year while I figured out that Jeff Bridges in The Vanishing didn’t get it, and Eric Roberts in Nature of the Beast did.

    Anyways, one little nitpick of your review here, seemed the poker skills were a bit of an issue for you “Then he beats them all at poker (I don’t really understand how these tough guys also have impossible luck so they can get a royal flush every time. It acts like getting a good hand at poker is something that happens automatically if you’re awesome. Not one of my favorite movie cliches).”. Just like the absolutely awesome final scene, this film was actually playin with that cliche in that when Johnny Yuma is walking out that pub he flicks away a few aces he still left had up his sleeve. He wasn’t lucky – just cheating.

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