A Fistful of Post-Apocalyptic Dollars
Whilst for some "Steel Dawn" is a low budget knock off of the "Mad Max" movies with it being set in a post-apocalyptic world I see it more in terms of being a post-apocalyptic western. The whole set up with a wandering warrior known only as Nomad dealing with feelings of revenge over his mentor's death whilst also coming across a village being terrorized by an evil rancher is right out of the western playbook. In fact watching "Steel Dawn" now you could say it is out of the Patrick Swayze playbook as he was in a similar situation just 2 years later in "Road House". But in truth what ever way you see "Steel Dawn" the one thing which is most certainly right is that it looks low budget and in being so is also cheesy.
In a post-apocalyptic world where strange creatures emerge from the desert and basic supplies are limited a lone warrior known only as Nomad (Patrick Swayze - Youngblood) crosses the dangerous plains in search of his mentor Cord (John Fujioka). When Cord having taken the position of Peacemaker is murdered by an assassin working for an evil rancher Nomad heads to the village where Cord was heading and discovers the locals are being terrorized by the evil rancher and inevitably ends up confronting him after biding his time.
So as I said "Steel Dawn" to me is just a post-apocalyptic variation on the old western genre and as such for all the post-apocalyptic touches from futuristic buildings to strange sand creatures it is familiar. Once we get a cheesy opening battle scene out of the way and then see the mentor killed with the use of a knee knife it ultimately becomes predictable. But in truth the storyline itself is not that big of an issue because it is one which is frequently used in films and it works.
The trouble with "Steel Dawn" is that it all seems so low budget and cliche. From are encounter with the fake looking sand creatures to Nomad meeting Kasha who runs a water purification farm with the aid of foreman Tark it all looks cheap and unoriginal. The only thing when it comes to look which it has got going for it is the desert setting which provides an impressive backdrop.
Aside from that well there isn't much else to say as whilst being a Patrick Swayze movie makes it watchable it is certainly not Swayze at his best especially with many of the fight scenes having the feeling of being too orchestrated. And as for the supporting cast well there is Lisa Niemi and Anthony Zerbe in some corny characters but there is also Brion James who for once gets to play a good guy and does a reasonable job of it.
What this all boils down to is that "Steel Dawn" is not a good movie and in truth is not bad enough to really be a guilty pleasure. But for fans of Patrick Swayze it is just about a watchable post-apocalyptic movie.