SAVAGE DAWN is a post-apocalyptic-town-harassed-by-bikers movie very similar to STEEL FRONTIER except way crappier looking and without all the great cars and car stunts. I’d almost give it a very, very lenient semi-pass just because Lance Henriksen, with bleach blond hair, gets one of his rare leading man roles, except… no, I wouldn’t want anybody to think I sort of recommended this movie. The best thing I can say is I’ve seen worse.
But if you insist on seeing it the DVD is #3 on a triple feature with CAGED FURY and DRUG TRAFFIKERS. Don’t say I or the cover didn’t warn you.
Henriksen plays Stryker, a mysterious veteran badass who has been away somewhere for a while and now came back for some reason. In my opinion you can tell that he’s cool because his name is Stryker. I don’t think there’s ever been a weenie named Stryker, only heroic warriors and villains. In this case it’s the heroic warrior.
It’s after some damn apocalypse or other and it’s basically like an old west town but with motorcycles instead of horses. As luck would have it shortly after Stryker shows up a savage biker gang cleverly called “The Savages” roll into town. They’re led by Henriksen’s STONE COLD co-biker William Forsythe, who does one of his less nuanced obnoxious-asshole-fuckin-shit-up roles as an early rehearsal for OUT FOR JUSTICE. He mostly does stuff like ride around on a tank firing shots in the air and yelling things like “The Savages fuckin rule, bay-bay!” and “Let’s go fuck this town!” He’s accompanied by Karen Black, playing one of her usual crazy-lusty-bitch roles. She was a bartender in the town but she begged to be taken with the Savages, explaining her qualifications like this: “I could suck start a Harley.”
Just so you know shit is crazy there’s a sleazy priest character (Richard Lynch with Nick Nolte hair). One day he comes into the church and startles a 1980s hair metal video ho with big hair and a dog collar. A sexy guitar solo plays as they quickly begin making post-apocalyptic love on the scriptural basis that she’s a sinner and “Contact with a sacred vessel will purify you.” The situation implies that the movie is blowing the lid off of hypocrisy within organized religion, but the music implies late night Cinemax.
Although society has gone to shit there’s still a National Guard base that has a big gate with uniformed security guards, and they get tricked by two giggly seductresses working for the Savages. I think maybe that’s where they got the tank from but to be frankly honest it is possible that I was somewhat tuning out of the movie by that point.
Unfortunately most people in town are not having as good of a time as the priest or the security guards. Bikers with names like Joyboy, Meatrack and Spyder (he has a bowler hat and sunglasses, basically the role of the birdman in STEEL FRONTIER) are going around being a real pain in the neck in my opinion. I’m sorry to get so worked up and use harsh language but their behavior is just really inappropriate, in my view. For example one guy gets a shave at an old fashioned barber and then he slits the barber’s neck (I swear this happened in STEEL FRONTIER also. Not sure why post-apocalyptic barber shaves are a big thing).
At first Stryker wants to stay out of it (reluctant hero, etc.) but when he happens to be right there when some of these pricks are gonna rape an old friend he decides to intervene. One of the best parts is when he’s on a bridge and swings down to kick a guy right off his motorcycle. Not Bad For a Human claims Henriksen did all his own stunts, but I’m not sure about that because most of the best moves don’t show his face until right after an edit. Either way though he does get to punch some guys and get more physical than in alot of his movies. In one fight he picks up a rattlesnake and uses it as a weapon much like Van Damme later did in another Henriksen movie, HARD TARGET.
Although “interesting” might be too strong a word, the movie gets most interesting at the end when a couple citizens decide to fight back. Stryker’s old war buddy George Kennedy in a wheelchair has been trying to convince him to help stand up to the Savages. He does manage to recruit a retarded guy who’s mad because the Savages were mean to his doll Andy. The doll ends up becoming a suicide bomber. Meanwhile a kid fills a garbage bag with gasoline and makes a boobie trap, and Kennedy gets hold of a bazooka. Stryker runs up and down a bunch of stairs and ladders getting in various scuffles. Karen Black yells “Feel my wrath!” as Forsythe squeezes her tits and she drives her tank over a car with the priest in it. That type of shit.
I forget how it ended but I’m sure it was great. As Henriksen told Joseph Maddrey in Not Bad For a Human, “That was one of those fucking movies, man… I mean, anything with the word ‘savage’ in the title… it’s got problems.” Until we get the definitive “Macho Man” Randy Savage biopic I guess he’s probly right.
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.