Urban Warriors (1987)


Urban Warriors
(1987)- * *1\2

Directed by: Giuseppe Vari

Starring: Karl Landgren, Maurice Poli, Bjorn Hammer, Malisa Longo, Tiziana Altieri, and Alex Vitale

Brad (Landgren), Maury (Hammer), and Stan (Poli) are scientists and co-workers. One day they're at work, just minding their own business doing science stuff, and there is a nuclear apocalypse. Everything blows up and the world becomes your classic wasteland. Our trio manages to survive the blast, and they even scrounge their way to find some canned food. But now they've got a bigger problem on their hands: roving bands of murderous mutants led by a meathead known only as Mutant Leader (Vitale). Faced with this threat, the formerly white-coated nerd Brad becomes a ripped action hero for the 80's. Of course, two women also survived the devastation: Julia Reiner (Longo) and Angela (Altieri) - but which one can he trust? After being put on "trial" by the baddies, they drive around in a rock quarry for a while, which is how they settle their differences in the future. Or maybe the past. Who will survive the onslaught of the URBAN WARRIORS?

We all love a good Italian Post-Apocalypse film (or Post-Ap's, as we call them) - but it appears that by 1987, we had already seen the best the genre had to offer: The New Gladiators (1984), Escape From the Bronx (1983), 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982), Warriors of the Wasteland (1983), 2019: After the Fall of New York (1983) among certain others. Note those early-80's release dates. If Urban Warriors is any indication, the genre was running out of steam. The Italian film industry in general was on the decline, and budgets were just not what they used to be. By this time, the focus was on the Exploding Hutters shot in the Philippines such as Born to Fight (1989), Strike Commando (1987), and Robowar (1988), to name just a few examples. It probably also didn't help that director Giuseppe Vari was around 71 years old at the time, and this was his last film. He literally was days away from retirement, and he hadn't directed a film for a decade at this point in his career. He was probably tired. It's almost like a poor hobo on the street: would anyone spare a dime for Urban Warriors?

Apparently, Cannon did, as they picked up the film and released it in America on VHS. Which leads us to this fact: the most interesting thing about Urban Warriors has nothing to do with the film. The VHS tape was part of Michael Dudikoff's Action Adventure Theater, a series that featured the Dude himself introducing each film. He even makes reference to a Cannon project that was never made. Which, knowing the history of Cannon and how many irons they always had in the fire, is not at all surprising.

There is some familiar-looking stock footage of nuke tests and lava flows to show that our beloved apocalypse has finally happened. Our three scientist heroes fumble around underground for a while after that. Then, for a while, we go into an Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) scenario. Even Paolo Rustichelli's score is very Carpenter-esque most of the time, except for during the final demolition derby, where the theme is a lot like White Lines by Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel.

If this film seems a lot like The Final Executioner (1984) or The Bronx Executioner (1989), it's because it basically is. Everyone's recycling footage from everyone else, so it's really impossible (not to mention pointless) to try and figure out who came first. But the bottom line is, if you like roving gangs of punks in desolate, dusty wastelands, car/motorcycle chases, and plenty of abandoned buildings and warehouses, you'll find comfort in the fact that this is another place to find those things.

You gotta give it to the Italians, at least they always tried. Despite the low budget, there's a sort of scrappiness to the proceedings, and in the face of financial lack, they must've said something like, "We'll do it anyway!" Unfortunately, the film needed more drive. Which is ironic, considering how much driving goes on. Ideas that haven't been done before, and energy, must have been hard to come by at this point. So a certain slow, bland listlessness sets in.

Giuseppe Vari, like a lot of so-called "journeyman" directors, worked in "Vari"ous genres during his long and noteworthy career. Westerns, erotic films, comedies, Poliziotteschi, dramas, peplums and more. Whatever was needed at the time in the Italian film industry, it appears that he rose to the challenge. Yes, it could be argued that this, his final film, is him going out on an off note. It could also be argued that it's completely in keeping with the rest of his lengthy filmography: fulfilling a genre need when it was needed.

Is Urban Warriors the best Post-Ap ever made? No, not by a country mile. But as a potential video store choice in the 80's or 90's, made even more attractive by the Michael Dudikoff's Action Adventure Theater branding, it was undoubtedly part of the rich tapestry of the VHS rental world. The Cannon-Dudikoff connection is why this film is even remembered at all in the U.S., most likely. So, we choose - despite 'Urban's glaring quality issues - to dwell on the positives.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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