Directed by: Paul G. Volk
Starring: Joe Lara, Bo Svenson, Brion James, Kane Hodder, James Victor, Stacie Foster, Brian Huckeba as Chicken Boy and Adolfo "Shabba Doo" Quinones
In a post-apocalyptic future, survivors live in a dirty makeshift town named New Hope. It seems tires are valuable so workers toil away in the tire yards. One day, a band of marauders known as “The Deathriders” roll into town. Through violent tactics, they sack the town of New Hope and institute J.W. Quantrell (James) as leader. Quantrell then makes his son, Julius (Victor) Mayor. Their plan is to institute what they call the “United Regime”. But a savior arrives in the form of a gunfighter named Yuma (Lara). He pits various factions against each other (not forgetting about Bo Svenson as Ackett, Kane Hodder as Kinton and Brian Huckeba as the immortal and show-stealing “Chickenboy”). Yuma attempts to save the lives of Sarah (Foster) and her young son as she is a widow trying to make it in this tough world. But there are many pitfalls along the way, not the least of which are desert-dwelling cannibals named “Roach Eaters”. Will Yuma save the day and ride off into the sunset?
PM attempts to marry two genres here: the post-apocalyptic actioner (in the vein of the Mad Max series but perfected by the Italians) and the Spaghetti Western (started and perfected by the Italians) with generally entertaining results. Like in the Italian post-ap’s, cars have wacky contraptions glued to them and people wear wacky outfits. But because this is a PM, it has much more action than the usual slog. There’s pretty much non-stop shooting, chases, stunts, fights and blow-ups. There’s even minimal dialogue at the outset of the movie, telling the story mainly visually, which is difficult to do. But this is a PM synthesis of Yojimbo (1961), hence For A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and For A Few Dollars More (1965) (and any number of Clint Eastwood’s 60’s/70’s output - including a bus chase reminiscent of The Gauntlet, 1977) along with a futuristic twist. So you get what’s going on here.
Even the name “Steel Frontier” indicates what you’re in for: “Steel” indicating the future and “Frontier” indicating the Western. There’s also some biblical symbolism worked into the storyline, a lot of which revolves around Joe Lara looking especially like Jesus this time around. He puts in an especially charming performance - this really is Lara at his absolute best. A location in the movie is even reminiscent of fellow Lara vehicle American Cyborg: Steel Warrior (1993). Maybe he lives in that industrial wasteland for real. You know Kane Hodder because he wears a hat with a Jason logo on it, and the guy who plays Julius has orange hair, making him, naturally, “Orange Julius”. Svenson puts in a standard performance. Brion James should have been more involved.
Because there is terminology such as “The Drylands” and the tire farmers are derisively known as “tire suckers”, this would seem to be PM’s Neon City (1991). But Steel Frontier is far better than that movie.
To see PM’s take on not one, but two classic genres together in one film, don’t hesitate to see Steel Frontier. And did we mention Chickenboy?
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty