April 21, 2013

Movie Review: Hands of Steel (1986)

With disk one of the Sci-Fi Invasion box set complete, I have moved on to disk two. I approach it with a little trepidation as the first disk offering were, well, less than stellar. So, with the fifth movie watched in the set, I have finally found one worth watching, maybe even revisiting. Don't get me wrong, this is still squarely B grade material, so your personal enjoyment will definitely hinge on own ow much you like this sort of thing. The movie in question is Hands of Steel, aka Vendetta from the Future, aka Atomic Cyborg, aka Paco (yes, Paco).

The movie was directed by Sergio Martino, credited as Martin Dolman. Martino is no stranger to the scene, having directed the horror/exploitation films Torso and Slave of the Cannibal God (with Ursula Andress and Stacy Keach), as well as post-apocalyptic films like 2019: After the Fall of New York. On top of that, the film features genre favorite John Saxon as well as Janet Agren (Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive), George Eastman (Anthropophagus, 1990: Bronx Warriors), and was the last appearance of Claudio Casinelli (New Gladiators) who died in a helicopter crash during filming.

Hands of Steel plays like a low rent mash up of Terminator, RoboCop, Road House, and Over the Top. Sounds like fun, right? What makes this mash up even more remarkable is that it predates all of those movies save for Terminator.

As the movie opens we are introduced to a future world where we are plagued with acid rain. There is some talk of activists and protests and some guy that people may want to assassinate. It is so much talk that I see as necessary but did not really make much of an impact. Anyway, we then meet Paco Quearak (Daniel Green), a walking pile of muscles who makes his way into the apartment building with evil intent. He approaches the target and in an unexpected moment of weakness, he merely injures the man before fleeing into the sewers.

The tale picks up after this, when the hunted fugitive, Paco, ends up in some hotel/bar in the middle of nowhere. The only people who seem to frequent the place are prostitutes and their johns, passing truck drivers, and a roving posse of arm wrestlers. So, Paco makes nice with the woman who runs the place, crosses the local arm wrestling heroes, and tries to hide from the oncoming groups of police, FBI, and some shadowy group run by John Saxon. It all culminates in a chase and shootout involving helicopters and a bazooka sized laser cannon.

The whole thing is patently ridiculous, but there is something eminently watchable about it. Martino knows how to keep the whole thing moving, injecting some action, over the top personalities, and generally keeping things light and fun. Just sit back and watch the fun. I particularly liked the bit where the second android shows up, that fight is a blast. Th one thing you shouldn't do is expect any sort of resolution. We never learn more about the activists from the outset, or what may happen down the road, it just sort of stops on a mildly existential note as Paco contemplates his nature.


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