Steel Frontier (1995) — Mad Max by way of Clint Eastwood

“Death riders… I never liked that name. Death rides alone.”

Justin’s rating: He’s calling EVERYONE “yellow-bellied!”

Justin’s review: Having at this point seen more than my fair share of Mad Max rip-offs (seriously, you’re slacking on this and I’m tired of covering for you), I’m convinced that the only reason so many of these kinds of movies were made wasn’t because all of these directors loved the post-apocalyptic genre. I think it’s because they wanted movies with people doing deadly demolition derbies without having to explain why the police wasn’t putting a quick stop to it.

In the far-flung future of 2019, a car modification enthusiast gang called the Deathriders take over the peaceful settlement of New Hope — and there’s nothing they can do about it, because New Hopers are more concerned with fiddling about with tires than picking up a gun or maybe putting a couple of spike strips on the road. The Deathriders are led by General Quantrell, played by Fifth Element’s Brion James during what was probably a slow weekend for him.

It also has a weird chicken man who cavorts around with giant feathers and repeats everything anyone’s saying. Every movie needs a chicken man. Oh, and Friday the 13th’s Kane Hodder is one of the bad guys as well, in case you need more of an excuse to geek out.

This is a PM Entertainment movie, which I’m starting to learn means that the first 10 minutes are jam-packed with non-stop explosions, shootouts, deaths, and no actual plot. But unlike the five-minutes-into-the-future Hologram Man, Steel Frontier is more of a blend of western and action. Both star the luxurious hair style known as Joe Lara, who looks like he’s about to quit acting altogether and model for cheap romance paperback covers.

Lara plays Yuma, a motorcycle-riding gunslinger who never met a problem that he couldn’t hammer his six-irons into oblivion. He’s on the prowl for the General, hoping to collect on a bounty. But before he can do that, he’s got to infiltrate the Deathriders, turn everyone against each other, and accomplish a secret, vague mission that’s probably going to involve killing.

As with a lot of PM Entertainment flicks, I’m finding, while the action is good — very good, in fact — the stuff between the action is filler in the worst way. Yuma is positioned to be this steely Man With No Name-type, but he’s almost too laid back and soft-spoken to be seen that way. He’s Ranger, Texas Walker, and it’s only by activating his video game god mode does he grab the hero mantle.

I’ll tell you, I’m developing a real soft spot for PM’s style. The movies I’ve seen from this company are very well-shot and -edited, and there’s this dedication to entertainment above all else that covers for a multitude of other shortcomings, such as lower budgets, D-list actors, and generic plots. Steel Frontier is a slick scifi-western that’s a whole lot better than many, many Mad Max wannabes, so why not take a chance on it?

Didja notice?

  • You can lose both your legs and still be pretty conscious and able to talk without screaming “WHERE ARE MAH LEGS!”
  • Hey, it’s the rubber tire village, where everyone hauls around rubber tires all day instead of growing food or weaving baskets
  • I like how everyone’s wearing very colorful ’90s outfits
  • Twirly flower dude
  • If someone is set on fire in a movie, their stunt double must be shown wandering about in slow-motion to justify the expense
  • Quickdraw knife!
  • Radioactive giant rat makes good eatin’
  • Desert cannibals are such a pain
  • Future binoculars are the best binoculars
  • Tiny motorcycle bombs
  • Voice-activated rear machine guns? How much stuff does this bike hold?
  • “I was just amblin’ until your speed monkeys showed up and started chasing me.”
  • Berets in the ’90s always made you the bad guy
  • Real manly men brand their own arms
  • Loving in a hollowed-out plane looks so cool
  • That really awesome chimney explosion

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