ROME 2033: THE FIGHTER CENTURIONS (1984) (aka THE NEW GLADIATORS)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Screenplay: Elisa Briganti, Cesare Frugoni, Luci Fulci & Dardano Sacchetti
Starring: Jared Martin, Fred Williamson, Howard Ross, Elonora Brigliadori, Al Cliver, Hal Yamanouchi & Claudio Cassinelli
Italian Zombie master Lucio Fulci (The Beyond, City of the Living Dead) also liked to dabble in sci-fi weirdness (see the tripped out Conquest) and Rome 2033 brings both the sci-fi and the weirdness in equal spades. In a distant future (well, a distant future from 1984) two rival television networks vie for ratings supremacy with their ultra violent game shows. One network frames the supreme death bike champion (!) Drake (Martin) for the murder of his wife and her killers and force him to take part in their own violent sport of convicted criminals battling one another to the death on armoured laden motorcycles. However, Drake being the extreme badass and charisma vacuum that he is has other plans and after much messing about and lengthy scenes of serious talking convinces his fellow forced-to-fight criminals (including none other than The Hammer himself, Fred Williamson) to strike back and reclaim their freedom.
Despite the ridiculous costumes, ropey effects (complete with comedy cartoon laser effect!) and the fact Fulci plays everything stone cold serious (and by serious, I mean deadly serious: no matter how ridiculous things get everything is played straight!) Rome 2033 is actually a pretty groovy sci-fi flick. Sure, it takes a while to get going, we have to get through an awful lot of slow-mo strobe effects (seriously, Fulci loves his strobing in this flick!) and The Hammer just isn't in it enough but Rome 2033 is a funky time capsule of mad concepts, crazy 80s Italian styling and come the ending, some sweet motorcycle mayhem.
Jared Martin (Aengima, umpteen TV shows) is the sombre Drake, who scowls his way through proceedings stopping now and again to partake in some epic gurning (!) and bag the pretty Kim Cattral look-alike leading lady. Fred Williamson does “his thing” as a tough as nails convict (complete with funky head band!) and there is some cool support from Italian trash regulars Al Cliver and Hal Yamanouchi. Most of the motorcycle crunching action is saved for the finale (as Fulci has to fill up the rest of the running time with endless strobing effects and countless shots of the, admittedly quite cool, model futuristic city). When these “fighter centurions” engage in combat it’s on custom made motorcycles with side cars which, while they look camper than a row of pink tents rather than the badass killing machines the makers were probably hoping for, do provide a lot of stunt filled mayhem and allow for endless extras to get run over. Sweet.
While it doesn’t quite live up to its video box artwork or groovy title and is often too slow for its own good, Rome 2033: The Fighter Centurions has enough kookiness, cool actors and over-the-top action to make for a decent 80s Italian trash fix.