Awfully Good: Steel Dawn + The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (Video)

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

You definitely will not be disappointed by the absolutely amazing MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. However, I make no promises about this week's movie…


Steel Dawn (1987)


Director: Lance Hool
Stars: Patrick Swayze, Lisa Niemi, Brion James


In a desert wasteland overrun by famine and warlords, the only savior: Patrick Swayze and his mullet. 

Following the global success of the MAD MAX series in the 1980s, a whole genre of cinema attempted to capitalize on the post-apocalyptic craze. Think blatant ripoffs like HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN, SHE-WOLVES OF THE WASTELAND, 1990: BRONX WARRIORS, and EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000. While some of these may have had their B-movie charms, none of them possessed the secret weapon of STEEL DAWN: Patrick f*cking Swayze. 

Look at that hair…

STEEL DAWN is plenty cheesy, but Swayze keeps it from becoming forgettable 80s fodder with his performance as the lone warrior only known as Nomad. The actor even completely owns the glorious mullet of his character, unabashedly boasting the luscious mane in a variety of styles, including a braided ponytail. There are not many people that can be a convincing badass wielding a mullet and a sword, but James Dalton is definitely one of them. 


The rest of the film is nowhere near as great as Swayze, full of goofy characters, predictable plot points, and a rather dull post-apocalyptic setting. However, for what was clearly a lower budget production, the fight scenes are actually pretty awesome and easily the highlight of the movie. Swayze gives his all to the occasionally brutal action, whether it's through swordplay, straight up brawling, or even some acrobatics. STEEL DAWN came out the same year as DIRTY DANCING and the actor clearly transfers some of his most nimble dance moves in to deadly killing tactics. 

You don't get amazing hair like that without doing follicle push ups every morning.

STEEL DAWN opens exactly as you would imagine: Patrick Swayze meditating upside down in the desert as Jawa-like creatures emerge from the sand and try to pull him under. He quickly and mercilessly slaughters them with his sword of justice so he can continue wandering through the wasteland. Soon he runs in to his former mentor who expositions that Swayze used to be a high-ranking soldier but something terrible happened to his family and now he roams the desert, pouting and having great hair. The two old friends share some fond memories, before the old man tells Nomad that he's getting too old for this shit and is retiring. Of course he is then immediately killed by a random 80s hair metal villain. After losing yet another friend, Nomad resumes wandering in the desert with his mullet. 

It was love at first hair…

Eventually Nomad finds work in a small outpost called Meridian, led by Kasha (played by Swayze's real life wife Lisa Niemi) and her hired hand Tark (Jon Brion of BLADE RUNNER and TANGO AND CASH fame). The warrior quickly proves his worth as a farmer and bonds with Kasha's young son, teaching him to fight by doing handstand meditation. He also begins having sex with Kasha because they have compatible reproductive organs and they're stuck in the desert. However, Nomad soon learns that Meridian is being terrorized by a crazy warlord who wants to steal their water. He learns this when the warlord shows up with his gang while Nomad is bathing and they all have an awkward confrontation in the presence of Patrick Swayze's exposed penis. (Which I can only assume also has a mullet.) Soon the gang returns while Nomad and Kasha are boning and destroy the outpost. Of course Nomad sneaks in to the enemy camp to return the favor, leading to a gratuitous scene where Swayze stops in the middle of a raid to ogle some naked women changing in a post-apocalyptic locker room. Oh Nomad, you pervert. 

"Am I really supposed to be a believable threat to Patrick Swayze? I look like sickly Rainn Wilson. Also, my hair."

The pissed off warlord calls in an expert assassin to kill Nomad once and for all, and of course it's the same 80s hair metal bad guy who murdered Nomad's mentor. This leads to a third act showdown featuring multiple fight sequences and a laughably slow car chase featuring lame wind-powered vehicles that would make George Miller cry. (Though the bad guy Swayze is chasing is played by a young Arnold Vosloo from THE MUMMY, so it's got that going for it.) This might also be a good time to bring up Nomad's dog, who was present for five minutes in the beginning of the movie, most likely only because Mad Max had a dog. Nomad goes to get it water in the first act and then completely forgets about it for the rest of the movie, until the dog randomly shows up to join him for the final battle to bite a guy and steal his nunchucks.

Don't worry; MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is definitely better than this.

I will give the movie some credit for never bothering to explain anything about the war, what happened to humanity, Nomad's past, why everyone uses swords instead of guns, etc. It's actually kind of refreshing for a movie to understand that all anyone cares about is Patrick Swayze with a mullet holding a sword. And that's all you need to know about STEEL DAWN.


A few Patrick Swayze one-liners and some hilarious line delivery by his wife.

Mostly Patrick Swayze killing people with swords. And committing vehicular manslaughter with Arnold Vosloo.

Swayze accidentally stumbles on to a group of topless changing women and stops to enjoy the scenery.

Little hand says it's time to rock and roll! Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Patrick Swayze is upside down
  • Patrick Swayze stabs someone with a sword
  • Patrick Swayze smells a snake
  • A super fake fighting sound effect is used
  • Sho pulls out his knee sword
  • A henchman laughs

Double shot if:

  • Patrick Swayze warns someone about sharp objects

Still hungry for more Awfully Good? No problem! Check out the latest Awfully Good Movies video column below. This time, host Jesse Shade dives into 1989's THE TRIAL OF THE INCREDIBLE HULK, which features fan favorite characters Daredevil and The Kingpin! Hulk object! Hulk not overruled! Enjoy!

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.


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