Thursday, 3 July 2008

Steel Frontier



STEEL FRONTIER (1995)

Directed by: Paul G. Volk and Jacobsen Hart
Written by: Jacobsen Hart
Starring: Joe Lara, Bo Svenson, Stacie Foster and Brion James

Mad Max and The Magnificent Seven collide head on for the all action Steel Frontier. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, settlements are being terrorised by a band of desert pirates going by the name of The Deathriders. Led by the slightly deranged General J.W. Quantell (James), they are a group of ruthless mercenaries who are trying to form a new empire called the United Regime. The settlers have no option but to comply but a possible saviour appears in the form of a drifter, Yuma (Lara). Appearing to join the United Regime, Yuma may have ulterior motives hidden under his Stetson as he sets about destroying the Deathriders reign of terror. Throw in a few car chases, a dash of gun-play, then mix with some desert zombies and a sprinkling of explosions and you have the recipe for an enjoyable helping of sci-fi trash.

Blatantly ripping off the world and vehicles of the Mad Max universe, Steel Frontier scrapes by on its Old West slant and a little bit of inventiveness. Coming from the PM Entertainment stable, Steel Frontier is a change of pace from their usual output (cops and car chases) and is obviously one of their bigger budget films. The costumes, settings and vehicles are all nicely rendered and the desert landscapes are cinematically captured for a low budget feature. The characters are suitably offbeat (occasionally downright bonkers) and the film has a down and dirty feel appropriate to its western trappings. There are a couple of inventive shoot-outs (Yuma taking out six guys before they can even draw, being particularly amusing) and while there aren’t as many car chases as the usual PM action fest, the ones present in Steel Frontier should satisfy any car carnage fan. The vehicles do seem to be moving slowly considering they are in a high speed pursuit but the chases are redeemed by the incredible stunts on offer.



As with all sci-fi trash, the acting is pretty atrocious. Everyone pretty much overacts to the point that they make Jack Nicholson’s Joker look like a performance of refined subtlety and beauty. Bo Svenson (Snowbeast) simply looks bored, while the great Brion James (Tango & Cash) is on screen all too little. The walking hair extension that is Joe Lara (Hologram Man), acquits himself a little better as the brooding gunfighter, Yuma. The film also shows its budget limitations in some sloppy scenes that could have been shot and cut together better (the settlement take-over; the card game). The film is also excessively violent, there seems to be a plain disregard for human life as the body count mounts and mounts.

Yet all this is (somewhat) redeemed by the film’s inventive approach (great opening sequence and music) and numerous big explosions (it’s all about the explosions). Those looking for a serious drama about the hardships of life set on a Bradford council estate had best steer clear. However, those who are into trashy cinema could do far worse than giving Steel Frontier a look. Plus, it’s probably the only time you will see desert zombies, Kane Hodder (Jason, in the Friday 13th flicks) and a character named Chicken Boy all in the same film. And that’s got to count for something. Right?

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