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  Savage Dawn Lawless And Loveless
Year: 1985
Director: Simon Nuchtern
Stars: George Kennedy, Richard Lynch, Karen Black, Claudia Udy, Lance Henriksen, Lewis Van Bergen, Leo Gordon, Michael Sharrett, Kevin Thompson, Hal Sweesy, Kari Gibson, William Forsythe, John Lisbon Wood, Charles Hyman, Sam Kinison
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Stryker (Lance Henriksen) is ex-US Army and tired of his life of travelling to foreign climes to find ways of executing the locals there. So he has given up all that and hit the road on his silver and black motorbike and heads off to Arizona and the desert smalltown where his old military buddy Tick Rand (George Kennedy) stays, to catch up on old times and maybe look to a better future. However, this town has been overrun with uncouth bikers determined to make the place into a cesspool for them to wallow in. Stryker, on the other hand, is tired of fighting, though he remains skilled at it, and refuses to engage...

The Golden Age of the biker movie was probably somewhere around the late nineteen-sixties to the early seventies, but somehow the genre sputtered on fumes into the eighties - even the nineties, one of the stars here, William Forsythe, made a belated entry called Stone Cold that was really rather good. The appeal of watching the stranger ride into town and clean it up had moved on from said stranger appearing on horseback to appearing on a motorbike, but the Western principle was the same, that moral plot where the bad guys justified all sorts of righteous ass-kickings doled out by our dogged hero.

Henriksen was that hero here, to all intents and purposes, but as mentioned he was reluctant to get his hands dirty on the biker scum, which in effect meant he was relegated to a supporting role, except when it really mattered. Say, at the grand finale, or indeed the second grand finale as there were two to ensure value for money. There was a very impressive exploitation flick cast assembled for this, also including go-to crazy lady Karen Black, villainous favourite Richard Lynch in a more conflicted role as a priest, and veteran Leo Gordon as the Sheriff who seems to be the only man in town who cares about law and order.

Assorted heavies filled out the rest of the characters, aside from Tick's immediate family who were trying to follow in the tough guy (or girl) footsteps but had, predictably, a lot to learn. As the bikers' reign of terror gets out of hand, the pace under Simon Nuchtern's direction was curiously sedate, as if he was simply enjoying soaking in this sleazy, dusty milieu, and that leisurely approach funnily enough rendered the experience of watching it quite enjoyable. Nobody was going to mistake it for a classic of the style, but for what it was - basically one hour forty of tough guys snarling at one another - you could do a lot worse for your eighties action nostalgia fix, especially for a movie as relatively obscure as this one.

That plot simply adopted the one damn thing after another technique, so one minute Stryker is goaded into a fight with some of the gang (named The Savages - ah) and the next he's sitting this one out as Forsythe takes over a display of macho muscle flexing when the Sheriff's deputy Joe Bob (Lewis Van Bergen) dares anyone to take him on in a fistfight, apropos of nothing in particular. Black for some reason becomes Forsythe's moll, which leads to the world's longest catfight with Tick's daughter, as Tick, meanwhile, uses his weaponry skills to devise methods of dealing explosive death upon the gang, who somehow have got their hands on a tank or two from a local military base. It was pretty stupid, but it committed to its concepts with an integrity that said, we're here to provide the action, the jokes, the squaring off, the gratuitous nudity, and all the rest of it, and you can't say we didn't deliver. Well, maybe they didn't deliver on the fistfights: the hand-to-hand combat choreography is terrible throughout. Music by Pino Donaggio, slightly surprisingly.

[Available on Arrow Player. Click here to join the Arrow Player website - there's a free trial available.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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