Tuesday, August 10, 2010

After The Oil Wars

Originally released as BATTLETRUCK (or at least reviewed in VARIETY under that title), WARLORDS OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY is a New Zealand production that has basically the same plot as THE ROAD WARRIOR, but with less action, less money, and a lesser star. After promising to put up half the budget, Roger Corman eventually provided 30 percent of the film’s budget and left it to former documentary filmmaker Cokliss to find the rest.

American character actor James Wainwright (JIGSAW) is Straker, despotic leader of a band of raiders who conquer the land using a massive, invulnerable land cruiser armed with weaponry. Michael Beck, who flunked out of the movie star ranks after XANADU, MEGAFORCE, and this, is Hunter, a typical loner with a badass motorcycle that runs on methane created from chicken guano.

Straker’s struggle to communicate with his runaway daughter (Annie McEnroe) helps to humanize the character, and Wainwright does a good job carrying the picture. Cokliss’ action scenes are effective (Buddy Joe Hooker was the stunt coordinator and second unit director), but the movie needs more of them. Chris Menges (THE KILLING FIELDS) was Cokliss’ cinematographer, and future director Lee Tamahori (DIE ANOTHER DAY) was the boom operator. Also with Bruno Lawrence (THE QUIET EARTH), Randolph Powell (LOGAN’S RUN), and John Ratzenberger (CHEERS). Kevin Peak’s score is not good.

Shout Factory’s DVD teams it with the more entertaining DEATHSPORT, and gives it a second-feature treatment. Director Cokliss provides a dry audio commentary you won’t listen to more than once, and an okay still gallery completes the supplements. Shout Factory doesn’t even letterbox it, providing a decent-looking full-frame print bearing the American title, even though it’s called BATTLETRUCK on the box.

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