Peter’s Retro Reviews: Steel Dawn (1987)

December 19, 2014

Steel-Dawn-Posterby Peter Nielsen


“He is the desert warrior, carving the future with his sword.”

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to return to a subgenre I have a soft spot for, namely the post apocalyptic action flick! Most of them were basically rip-offs of Mad Max (1979) and The Road Warrior (1981), and let’s be honest… most of them were inferior! A lot of them were actually pretty entertaining though, and this week’s movie choice is no exception… on both accounts! Steel Dawn is both inferior and entertaining!

It was directed by Lance Hool, who’s only directed three movies including this one; the other two being One Man’s Hero and Missing in Action 2: The Beginning. He’s produced a bunch more though!

Nomad eating like a pig!

Nomad eating like a pig!

Our hero of the movie, Nomad, is played by Patrick Swayze; an actor who doesn’t really need much of an introduction, but I’ll mention a couple of titles anyway… Point Break, Road House, Red Dawn and also Ghost and Dirty Dancing. I like Mr. Swayze, I always have and he actually does pretty ok in Steel Dawn. Not that it’s a particularly demanding part though… at least not acting-wise! But don’t get me wrong here, I’m not knocking the acting… at least not from the main cast. Apart from Mr. Swayze you also get Anthony Zerbe (The Dead Zone, Licence to Kill, the TV-series Centennial) and Brion James (Blade Runner, The Fifth Element, Striking Distance) as well as Lisa Niemi, the wife of Mr. Swayze. Her filmography isn’t too extensive and she’s mostly done minor parts.

Steel Dawn opens on Nomad meditating… in the middle of the desert… standing on his head! Yeah… don’t ask! He’s soon attacked by some sort of underground scavengers wanting his gear. He disposes of them fairly easy and wanders off to meet up with an old friend, at a tavern of sorts. They’re both soldiers who fought in the war, but now wander the land taking odd jobs here and there for food and lodgings basically. Nomad’s friend and mentor is played by John Fujioka (American Samurai, Tales of the Gold Monkey), but unfortunately he’s not in this movie for very long.

Brion James as Tark, the foreman.

Brion James as Tark, the foreman.

While they’re having a meal and talking about their future plans, Nomad notices that the very suspicious-acting bar-keep has drugged their drinks. He manages to swat the mug out of his friend’s hand before collapsing on the floor. A band of thugs enter the tavern and a fight between the leader and Nomad’s friend ensues. The thugs have apparently been looking for him, and Nomad can do nothing but helplessly watch as his friend is killed. A classic set-up for a movie, wouldn’t you agree? And this will, of course, come full circle before the end of the movie. When Nomad comes to, he buries his friend and then set out to find the thugs.

A boat without water is like a... well, a boat without water!

A boat without water is like a… well, a boat without water!

As I mentioned, the movie takes place in the desert, and I guess most of the world has dried up, so fresh water has become somewhat of a valuable asset. Our wandering hero eventually comes across a small water irrigation farm owned by the lovely Kasha (Lisa Niemi), and asks if she has any work for him. Kasha and her foreman, Tark (Brion James) are naturally a bit suspicious at first, but decides to let him stay, because they could actually need his help on the farm. Kasha is a lonely widow with a son, and she and Nomad soon take a liking to each other. Not that that was a surprise though, I might add. You kind of saw that one coming a mile away!

Now, it wouldn’t be much fun if we didn’t have an antagonist, would it? And this is where Anthony Zerbe’s character, Damnil, comes in! He’s a local landowner who wants control of the area’s water supply and more specifically, Kasha’s water supply. Damnil and his band of thugs are terrorizing Kasha to get her to leave, but she’s a strong headed woman who won’t be bullied so easily. Damnil’s right-hand man is a hit-man/soldier by the name of Sho, and is played by Christopher Neame (Dracula A.D. 1972, D.O.A.). Sho is also the same man who killed Nomad’s friend at the start of the movie, so all of a sudden things get personal, and when they kidnap Kasha’s son, the shit really hits the fan!

My hair-do and I would like to fight you!

My hair-do and I would like to fight you!

As I stated earlier, Steel Dawn isn’t half-bad; in fact it’s pretty entertaining and I actually found myself liking it quite a bit. The action sequences are good and especially the fight scenes between Nomad and Sho, are badass! And although it’s set in the desert and the settings mostly consist of sand and rocks, there’s still a scene or two where the background kind of stands out. One such scene is where Nomad passes, what looks to be, a large cargo-ship that is half-way buried in the sand. Nice touch; I liked that!

What also stand out in this movie are the hair-dos! Those fabulous post-apocalyptic 80’s hair-dos! They actually have to be seen to be believed. Especially Sho’s hair… the word that springs to mind when seeing it is… hilarious! You almost expect it to jump off of his head and start acting all by itself, and doing a pretty damn good job too!

And with that, I think I’ll end my review of Steel Dawn… oh, wait! One more thing… keep a look-out for Arnold Vosloo (The Mummy, The Mummy Returns) in one of his earlier parts. He’s one of Damnil’s thugs. And now I’ll stop!

Until next time, my friends… Has any of you seen this movie and would like to share your thoughts on it… the comment section below is all yours!

Retro Movie Geek © 2015