Sunday, 11 May 2008

1990: Bronx Warriors (1982)

Waxed chests and leather vests... a chilling vision of the future

Now that we've looked at The New Barbarians it's time to take a look at the other Enzo G. Castellari helmed 1982 post-apocalyptic action film starring Fred Williamson. That's not to say it's a total retread. Whereas The New Barbarians was an unashamed, bottom-of-the-barrel rip-off of Mad Max, Castellari branches out into new territory with an unashamed, bottom-of-the-barrel rip-off of Escape From New York (with some of The Warriors thrown in).

In the extremely near future (a rather pessimistic eight years after the film was made) the crime rate in the Bronx has risen to such catastrophic levels that it has been declared No Man's Land. The authorities have given up any attempt to enforce law and order, and now the streets belong to the gangs.

Fleeing to this post-apocalyptic hell-hole is Ann (Stefania Girolami). She is on the cusp of her eighteenth birthday, and on that day she stands to inherit the Presidency of the Manhattan Corporation, the world's largest arms producer. Fearing becoming a puppet of corporate villainy, she naturally decides that the Bronx would be a good place to hide. Soon after arrival, she is attacked by a lame street-hockey themed gang called the Zombies. They aren't exactly the Baseball Furies, but they can hold their own against a 17 year old girl.

Luckily she is rescued by Trash, permed, pouty-lipped pugilist and leader of the biker gang the Riders. Played by Mark Gregory, he looks like a member of the sissiest hair-metal band ever to don a pair of skin-tight jeans, and looks particularly incongruous next to his gang, most of whom were played by genuine bikers. He walks in a bizarre, feminine gait and his expression is permanently set to baby-faced bewilderment. The only way I'd buy him as leader of the gang is if he were elected as some sort of prank, like Carrie as prom queen, but he was too stupid to get the joke and the rest of the gang just ran with it.

According to the opening text, the Bronx belongs to the Riders, but it's clear that the real guys in charge are the Tigers. I mean, the Riders may have Nazi uniforms and customised hogs with glowing plastic skulls on the front, but the Tigers wear pimp suits and drive around in classic hotrods. As opposed to the hair-metal reject Trash, the Tigers are led by the self-titled King of the Bronx "The Ogre", played by Fred "The Hammer" Williamson. Whereas Trash is flanked by fat, hairy bikers, The Ogre has a whip-wielding dominatrix sidekick named Witch. I think we know who the real top dog is.

Anyway, the Tigers meet up with the Riders at a wharf to discuss a territorial dispute. Apparently the Tigers have killed one of Trash's men, who, according to the Ogre, was carrying a police tracking device called a "Gizmo". The entire scene is scored to a drum beat, banged out by dude who is sitting there out in the open with a full drum kit. He doesn't appear to have any connection to the gangs and nobody says a word about it. If you've even wondered why I sit through these cheap Italian knock-offs, it's for insane moments like these.

Thrown into the mix is Hammer, played by actual Bronx native Vic Morrow (soon before dying on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie). Hammer is a former resident of the Bronx who is hired by the Vice President of the Manhattan Corporation (played by Enzo G. Castellari himself) to rescue Ann. Hammer also sees it as a chance to take out as many scumbag gang members as possible. He's like Charles Bronson in Death Wish, only he's the bad guy. He starts by infiltrating the headquarters of the Riders (colourfully labeled by the grammatically poor graffiti: "This shit heap is Riders home"). He is disguised as a mailman, complete with a shotgun in a poster-tube, but I question the idea that the mail service is still operating in this neighbourhood. He gets discovered, but he manages to take out a couple of Trash's men before escaping.

Hammer tries to frame the Tigers for the deaths by planting some evidence. Although the Riders call for war, Trash is unconvinced, claiming that "it could be a pile of shit out of somebody's asshole." Yes Trash, that's generally where shit comes from. When Hammer's attempts to turn the gangs against each other fails, he employs a traitorous member of the Riders named Ice to turn against their leader.

Ann blames herself for the deaths of Trash's crew and tries to run away, but the idiot is immediately captured by the Zombies. Ice goes to meet the leader of the Zombies, Golan, to try and convince him to turn Ann over to Hammer. Golan is played by none other than George "The New Barbarians" Eastman. He doesn't fuck a guy in the ass this time, but he does wear a crazy shogun-inspired outfit like Sho' Nuff.

Trash, meanwhile, has decided to take a few of his men and ask The Ogre for help to rescue Ann. In order to reach the Tigers' turf, however, they must make it through a gauntlet of gimmicky gangs a la The Warriors. I don't know why they had to take a shortcut through the sewers, but in doing so they were attacked by the Scavengers, a group of underground cavemen. The most hilarious gang of all is a group of tap-dancing thugs wearing bowler hats and glittery makeup, kind of like the drag version of A Clockwork Orange.

Once they arrive at the Tigers' headquarters Hammer tries to frame Trash one last time, but Trash manages to convince The Ogre of his innocence and get his assistance in rescuing Ann. On their trip back, Trash comes across his second-in-command, attacked by the Scavengers as he tried to warn him of Ice's treachery. Trash is just in time for a tearful death scene that I was convinced was going to end with a passionate kiss (maybe in the deleted scenes). Ogre, Trash and Witch rescue Ann and kick the asses of Golan and all of his roller-skating flunkies.

The Ogre takes Ann and the Riders back to his headquarters, even baking a spectacular birthday cake for Ann, but soon Hammer arrives, clad in black leather and doing some serious overacting, with a platoon of flamethrower-wielding riot cops on horseback. I wouldn't think flamethrowers and horses would be a good mix, but they do a good job of roasting the gang members. Pretty much everyone dies, including Ann, and the film ends with Trash impaling Hammer on a grappling hook and dragging his corpse through the streets of the Bronx. Long live the Riders!

Yeah, so this film is pretty dumb. I mean, why are they so intent on getting Ann back so she can run the company? I mean, this is a girl who decided that the best course of action was to run away to a crime infested slum and shack up with a bubble-headed, pretty-boy biker named Trash. We're not talking top-shelf material here. I also don't understand how Hammer's plan was supposed to work. By the end of the film he doesn't seem to care why he's there at all, and I guess it's assumed that you don't either. The film also loses points for casting Fred Williamson and naming a completely different character "Hammer". However it's never boring, with lots of good action and some nicely choreographed fights. Throw in a few surreal Italian touches and some hilariously bad "tough guy" dialogue ("You're playing with fire!" "I know, and I love it... I love it"), and you've got a recipe for good times my friend.

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