In a pollution-scarred, near-future United States, a visionary environmentalist has aroused the ire of presumably wealthy, presumably influential, and definitely evil industrialist Francis Turner (head of the eponymous Foundation, but not author of the eponymous Diaries). In an effort to silence this threat, brooding, muscly-type gentleman Paco Queruak is sent to assassinate the do-gooder. Obeying his instincts, Paco holds back on his killing blow and goes on the lam to his home state of Arizona. How on earth Koch-era New York City--which is what I think gets montaged at the opening of the film, unless that footage was part of some kind of ill-advised and ultimately-scrapped "Phoenix Is Phucked" tourism campaign from the mid-80s--got transported four hours from Middle-o'-Nowheresville, AZ is not addressed, but such are the flights of fancy one must accept in Italian dystopias of the 1980s. At any rate, Paco winds up in Arizona at the rustic Champions Cafe and Motel, run by the lovely, lithesome, and lonely Linda, who agrees to give Paco room and board in exchange for the kind of wholesomely beefy manual labor usually reserved for romance novels. Turner's minions, including European Hitman Peter Howell*, are hot on Paco's trail, and after Paco earns the hatred of arm-wrestling heavyweight Raoul Morales, the Turner Cronies team up with the angry trucker to kill Paco by any means necessary (up to an including "death by femmebot").
*Yes, this is really how the character is announced in the film, which is just as awesome as you're thinking it is.
Daniel Greene puts in a decent turn as Paco Queruak, and the relationship between Paco and Linda is actually rather sweet. The most glee-inducing roles, as one should expect in a genre film, belong to the character actors. George Eastman will be easily recognizable to Eurotrash enthusiasts as the uber-macho big rig driver Raoul. He struts, eye-bugs and perspires his way through his role as the shit-talking antagonist, and his menacing physical presence provides a good counterpoint to Greene's own muscular frame. Genre vet Claudio Cassinelli (who died in a helicopter crash during filming), is suitably sinister as European Hitman Peter Howell. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the presence of John Saxon** playing head baddie Francis Turner.
**In my household, he is known as John "Mark Of Quality" Saxon. He's second only to Udo Kier in terms of playing roles in movies that made me say something like "Oh, John Saxon is in this--how bad could it be?" only to have that question answered in the most painful manner possible.
John Saxon makes no apologies for his career choices.
The near-future mise en scene is created in such a manner as to be only partially immersive, and that only part of the time. This film's vision of the future hinges on silver HVAC tubing and dialogue about pollution. To be honest, I think it's wonderful that little attempt was made to disguise the year in which this was filmed. Here is a short list of things that will still be around in the future:
- Rotary phones
- Mazda RX-7 sports cars
- That brown, orange and creme texturized-plaid loveseat from your grandma's house
- Garfield posters
There's also some great use of computer technology, when the police investigating the assault on the environmentalist plug in the coordinates of his wound, only to come up with the following maybe-useful graphic with some suggestions to the identity of the weapon:
Dialogue-wise, this movie dwells in a magical land somewhere between action movie cliches and bad dubbing, aided by a distinctly foreign view of how Americans talk to each other. Witness this ACTUAL EXCHANGE that takes place during the film:
Linda: [handing a roll of toilet paper to Paco] They forced me to do this.
Paco: [reading from a threatening note on a roll of toilet paper] "If you are a man, prove it. If you're shitting in your pants, clean your ass with this."
Raoul's minion 1: That's a good one! I think he's gonna need another roll at least!
Raoul's minion 2: You can put him down Raoul--he knows it!
Raoul's minion 3: He's strong--yeah, as strong as a wet fart.
[Paco scrawls something onto the counter, breaks the corner of the counter with his bare hands, tosses it at Raoul's table]
Raoul: [reading from the chunk of counter] "You're on."
For those of you keeping score, this makes "Hands of Steel" easily the award-winner for the Film with the Best Threat Delivered via Toilet Paper Leading to an Arm Wrestling Match Between a Trucker and a Cyborg.
To be honest, I can't think of anything I didn't like about "Hands of Steel." It's exactly the flavor of silly that will please fans of low-budget, post-apocalyptic films, striking plenty of silly notes, very few boring ones, and including enough outta-left-field action bits to keep things popping. You really have no excuse NOT to see this movie, since it's included in the Mill Creek Tales of Terror 50-Movie Pack. Many thanks to Emily of the Deadly Dolls House of Horror Nonsense for turning me on to this flick!