- Directed by Lance Hool
- November 8, 1987
In the wastelands of a war devastated world, a group of settlers are menaced by a warlord and his gang out to control their water.
What a glorious bit of cheesy 80s science-fiction Steel Dawn is! If you are willing to leave your brain at the door you will enjoy this movie. It is just pure fun from beginning to end. This movie is a mix of Western and post-apocalyptic science fiction.
Patrick Swayze stars as Nomad who is the usual mysterious stranger with a penchant for headstands and a desire to avenge his friend Cord’s (John Fujioka) death at the hands of a local warlord. Swayze as Nomad appears to be going for tough but often comes off as just generally annoyed. But in something this cheesy that works.
Our villain Damnil is played by Anthony Zerby who has a fairly long and pretty decent filmography to his name. You may not recognize the name, but chances are you recognize the face. He is a fantastic character actor who makes Damnil a little slimy and just the right Western bad guy evil.
Another face you may recognize is Brion James. James was one of those faces that was everywhere for a time in villainous supporting roles. As Tark he is much more of a good guy though. Lisa Niemi, Swayze’s real-life wife, plays Kasha.
You may think Steel Dawn is set in some distant future but a few minutes in it becomes clear that it is set on some alien world. There was a great war (which is pretty standard fare in post-apocalyptic movies-especially from a certain time) but given things they mention about the military and the society before this war it’s clear that this is not Earth. I give them props for that but it is a little muddled. I think Hool could have made where this story is taking place a little clearer.
The execution of the romantic subplot with Kasha is just weird. Not because there is a romance with her but it looks like Tark is being set up to betray everyone because Nomad has just taken his woman but they drunkenly bond with the cap being Tark’s death immediately following that. I get why they hooked up the fictional couple but the whole resolution to the story was just strange to me.
Steel Dawn is very much a product of the 80s. From its bad guys to the execution of the plot to the humor. Thirty-five years ago you could have a few guys ogling a group of topless women and call that a joke. Today not so much. You could also have two male characters fight over a woman without the woman even being involved in the situation.
This is one of those movies that should not work. It has a lot going against it but what helps pull it all together is the time in which it came out. This type of film with this plot and with this execution could not have been made at any other point and become popular enough to be remembered.
There was something about the 80s. Creative minds could make the worst stuff work and enjoyable. They were willing to try anything and proceed with an earnest effort.
The action sequences may be a little substandard and some of the acting questionable and the story comes off at points as juvenile but somehow it is all held together. I just find myself enjoying this even though I should not. Perhaps because it’s simply fun. It doesn’t pretend to be deep or anything grand. It’s a little bit post-apocalyptic drama and a little bit of a Western set in a post-apocalyptic world. It involves a mysterious stranger who falls for the lonely widow (who gets widowed twice) and battles the villain on horseback. It’s not about deconstructing anything but rather creating a mythology.
Steel Dawn is a cheesy science-fiction film which with its separate elements should not be good but is. It’s fun and entertaining and a little bit brainless. If you don’t think too hard, you’ll be just fine and enjoy yourself.