The Ninjabot

Post-Nuke Review of STEEL DAWN (1987)

Posted on May 11, 2015 at 10:28 am by Dylan Reynolds

From now and until Mad Max: Fury Road’s release I’m going to try and watch as many “Post Nuke flicks” as humanly possible.  And now- some post-nuke dirty dancing…


joTLbOp3Kj6q2f8n7MdWVGQxpq3A back-in-the-day staple from cable and daytime TV (if memory serves- I first saw it on KCET Channel 5)- STEEL DAWN has Patrick Swayze playing the “man with no name” 80s movie hero arc type to a T.

The flick begins with him doing some headstands in a post apocalyptic wasteland- which he later explains as his way of meditating and “channeling his Zen” (or some crap).

Then out of nowhere he is attacked by some “sand creatures”- giving Mr. Swayze the opportunity to bust out some appropriated “white boy Kung Fu moves” that may or may not make you wish you were watching ROAD HOUSE instead.

Check out the opening fight/ sequence:

Swayze then runs into an old “war time buddy”/ mentor and they stop by a tavern to throw a few back and play catch up. They manage to get some exposition out of the way (his friend is going to a settlement to be a “peacemaker” to protect some villagers from a warlord) when some dudes literally drop from the rafters and knock out Swayze and assassinate his friend.

Though angered/ saddened by the incident- Swayze is a “reluctant warrior” who is trying to get away from a life of violence. So he wanders to a nearby farm and asks for a job from the woman running it (which quickly kindles into a romance). Over time he befriends the other laborers (including character actor Brion James from BLADE RUNNER) and as a bonus becomes something a father figure to the woman’s son.


This brief period of peace ends when a sadistic land baron (played by yet another character actor- Anthony Zerbe from LICENSE TO KILL) shows up with his motely crew of “Road Warriors” (including one that Swayze recognizes as his friend’s killer).


Apparently the farm/compound where Swayze works is sitting on top of a “fresh water spring” and the “good guys” plan on distributing the water to the other nearby farmers… which will help revitalize and bring prosperity to the region.

But of course the “bad guys” are dicks and want the water and power all for themselves and this leads to the inevitable showdown. And it’s probably not much of a Spoiler to say that in the end Swayze kicks some righteous ass and triumphantly “wanders off into the sunset”.


Needless to say- with a few changes and a horse or two- STEEL DAWN would have been a pretty “by the numbers” western flick. More specifically the movie invokes the “lone stranger/ sheriff coming to town to fight outlaws and protect the innocent villagers” motif from ‘53s SHANE and was no doubt a reference film when they came up with the script.

And though there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that- the movie lacks a certain degree of tension for a majority of the first half before it “picks up” around the mid point. And for such a stripped down and paper-thin plot STEEL DAWN could have either used some additional “complications” or more developed characters to keep things interesting.

6853302_stdThis movie’s release fell somewhere in between ROAD HOUSE and POINT BREAK so in comparison it doesn’t quite reach those echelons of “guilty pleasure” bliss. But Swayze always makes for a credible action hero and the performances from the aforementioned character actors Brion James and Anthony Zerbe helps to keep the movie on track.

All in all I would say STEEL DAWN is the very definition of a “lazy afternoon movie” where you kick back and dial down your expectations to watch a flick that doesn’t bother to “reinvent the wheel” but instead “delivers the goods” with an uncomplicated story peppered with some effective action/ fight sequences.

Be sure to check out my other Post-Nuke reviews.

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