The Ninjabot

Post Nuke Review: WHEELS OF FIRE (1985) and EQUALIZER 2000 (1987)

Posted on May 15, 2015 at 10:11 am by Dylan Reynolds

With FURY ROAD fast approaching it’s time to buckle up and get through some more Post-Nuke actioners from the “Godfather of the Mad Max rip off” Cirio H. Santiago. I previously reviewed his inaugural wasteland epic STRYKER and then his absolutely bonkers meta genre mash-up FUTURE HUNTERS.

Today I decided to indulge in what are considered to be two of his stronger Post Nuke efforts- WHEELS OF FIRE and EQUALIZER 2000. Of course he wasn’t quite done with the sub genre after these two flicks- he would go on to make THE SISTERHOOD (1987), DUNE WARRIORS (1991) and RAIDERS OF THE SUN (1992). But from my understanding these productions would continually rely on “recycling” B-roll and sequences from these initial films- so they are therefore worth skipping. (But whom am I kidding? I’ll end up watching them at some point anyway).

Generally speaking, Santiago’s “Mad Max rips” are thick slices of trash that utilize the most minimal of plot to stitch together an endless parade of action scenes. But above all else he makes sure to deliver three of the “must have’s” for any self respecting exploitation film; plenty of car chases, gun fights, and gratuitous nudity… Yee Haw!

The first movie is WHEELS OF FIRE- peep the trailer:

WHEELS OF FIRE starts off with a guy named Mad Ma-… uh, I mean Trace who rides around the wasteland with his “pimped out ride” looking for trouble. He meets up with his sister (played by a former Playboy supermodel) and ends up having to save her douchebag boyfriend from a group of nasty marauders- who promptly chase after them.

wofflamethrowerThey make their escape onto the highway- only to run into a worse situation when they get the attention of a nefarious group of Wasteland Warriors that plague the area. (And look at that- their leader happens to be named Plague… who would have thunk it?)

They decide to split up and Trace leads half of the bad guys into a valley where he turns a flame- thrower on their ass and torches them nice and good. But his sister and boyfriend don’t fare as well and the rest of the gang catches up to them.

wofhoodThe evil warlord Plague rips off the woman’s top- exposing her ample assets and romantically straps her to the hood of his car and takes her back to the compound to have his way with her. Meanwhile the boyfriend is left to the minions who enthusiastically start to “break him in” (Yes, in the exact way you’re thinking).

Trace then shows up and kills the bad guys and promptly shoots the boyfriend in the head to put him out of his misery (he didn’t like the guy much anyway). From here one would rightfully assume that Trace would try to move heaven and Earth to get his sister back, right?

Well- sort of… Instead he kind of cruises around and gets sidetracked by two other women (a Warrior Babe with her pet falcon and a Psychic who can “hear people think”) and ends up saving them from a tribe of mutant cannibal “sand creatures”. In the meantime it cuts back-and-forth as his sister is literally being ganged raped (yeah, in case you can’t tell, this movie is kind of “rapey”).

woftraceSo Trace brings the women back to a village and tells them “peace out” and he hits the road. But as soon as he leaves- the Wasteland Warriors show up and lay waste to the village. Trace swings back around just in time to… not do much of anything. But he does find his sister’s necklace on one of the bandits. The Psychic girl “reads” the necklace and tells him the location of where she’s being held.

Trace arrives at the bad guys compound and goes “berserker style” in an attempt to break his sister out of captivity. When he finds the poor woman she’s more dead than alive- so he grabs her and attempts to shoot his way out of the compound but they are quickly captured. Things are not looking too good but luckily the survivors from the village and other “groups” in the area mount a final attack to “wipe out the Scourge” once and for all.

We get an admittedly awesome epic battle with hundreds of extras and vehicles colliding and clashing in some of the best action sequences I’ve seen Santiago helm thus far. And I usually try to avoid giving away overt spoilers but needless to say basically everyone ends up getting slaughtered in the battle.

wofarliedead(DOUBLE SPOILER: This includes Trace’s poor sister… I mean, Jesus Christ movie! Yeah, she does end up “saving the day” and blowing up a bunch of the bad guys- but after going through so much shit and just “waiting around to be saved” it’s kind of a bummer she goes out like that.)

Anyway- so the movie wraps up with Trace killing off the Warlord by dropping a car on his head (literally). He doesn’t seem too broken up about his sister (or anyone else for that matter) so Trace hits the two-lane blacktop once again for what we can assume will be further adventures… my hero?

WHEELS OF FIRE contains all the signature elements one comes to expect from a Cirio H. Santiago film; lots of choreographed stunt work, vehicular mayhem, crashes, fireball explosions, gun fights, weird characters, ridiculous wardrobe with lots of black leather, spikes, crazy hairstyles/ make up etc. And on those terms the movie is aces and certainly has its moments.

But unfortunately the script is a bit more incoherent and frustrating than usual with head-scratching character motivations and choices. Plus the entire film has a bit of a mean spirited misogynistic edge that can make it a rather unpleasant viewing experience at times. But I’m happy to say that the next movie is a lot more fun…

Equalizer-2000-14EQUALIZER 2000 tells the tale of a man named Slade who is a military leader of a cooperative gang who call themselves ‘The Ownership’- in that they own/ control the limited oil supply in the area.

A rebel faction demands fairer treatment and more access to the oil- but the Ownership isn’t having any of that so the two groups clash in conflict. During one desperate attack by the Rebels- a “power hungry” General betrays his rival Slade and allows him to be captured.

equalizer2000_008-250x195Slade is taken to the Rebels’ camp- but he manages to escape. Meanwhile- we are introduced to a warrior woman named Karen (Santiago switches it up by casting a Penthouse Pet this time). She runs afoul of some sleazy thugs (their leader played by a pre-Terminator 2 Robert Patrick who would go on to star in Santiago’s FUTURE HUNTERS).

This leads to the usual car chase- that results in Slade saving Karen- but in the clash he gets injured so Karen brings him back to her village. While Slade recovers he gets to know more of the Rebels- becomes sympathetic to their plight and they begin to accept him as one of their own.

Norton Eq03And being that Slade is now an enemy of the Ownership he decides to join their cause and he builds the “ultimate weapon” to “settle the score”. What he comes up with is dubbed the Equalizer 2000- a multi-barreled “Swiss army gun” which shoots automatic bullets, shotgun shells, a rocket launcher etc.

The montage of Slade building the Equalizer 2000 (which is something only a 12 year old boy would think is “cool” and at all practical) is a hoot- check it out:

Slade uses the weapon to take on the Ownership- who after seeing all the damage it does try stealing it for themselves. Eventually circumstances lead to them actually getting control of the weapon. Slade and the other Rebels regroup and join forces to “storm the castle” where the Ownership is residing. The usual third act commences with over-the-top gunfights and car chases resulting in the Rebels ultimately defeating the Ownership.

equalizer-2000-avi_002706937The movie ends with Slade destroying the Equalizer 2000 and everyone else following suite by tossing their weapons onto a bonfire. Presumably bringing about “peace and prosperity” to the area. Which is all very touching… assuming that no one else tries to screw with them in the future. But whatever, it’s a happy ending and I’ll take it.

Equalizer 2000 is like a ridiculous comic book come to life- with all the logic that one could expect coming from such a source. That said- the script is totally enjoyable and a bit stronger than what Santiago usually works with.  Plus unlike the misogynistic trappings of WHEELS OF FIRE- the babe in this one actually kicks a lot of ass and isn’t just playing “a damsel in distress” the entire time.

This movie was actually a “re-watch” for me and was one of the only Cirio Santiago movies I had seen prior to writing this column. It has been one of my favorite Post Nuke Flicks and I’m happy to say that a second viewing reaffirms it as one of the best “Mad Max rip-offs” out there… highly recommended.

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