Hands Of Steel

Director: Sergio Martino
Daniel Greene, John Saxon, Janet Agren

If you were to pick up the latest science magazine, or if you were to sit down and watch a recent science program, I have a strong feeling that you would agree with me that we are not going to run out of new inventions any time soon. At first glance, it seems that the world that will be in the future will have a lot more conveniences and handy things than we do now. But while the initial sound of these new things may sound great, there will inevitably be a dark side to all of this. It was probably said best by philosopher George Santayana when he gave his now famous quote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." What am I talking about? I am talking about the fact that it seems that with every new invention that mankind comes up with, inventions that were supposed to make our lives easier, it seems that some severe negative aspects come with each new invention. Let me give you some example from the past. One of the first inventions mankind came up with had to be religion. Well, maybe religion gave many people some explanations for many mysteries of life, but it also lead to a lot of squabbling (and worse) by people of different religions. Thousands of years later, there came the Industrial Revolution, which in part generated machines like the power looms. While machines like that did make manufacturing easier and cheaper, it also resulted in people being drummed out of work by these mechanized replacements. And this resulted in the violent Luddite movement. Flash forward a number of years later, and mankind had the automobile. Sure, the invention has made various aspects of life easier for a lot of people, but don't forget that the invention also results in the deaths of thousands of people every year from auto accidents.

Decades later, we are still coming out with inventions that have a dark side to them. For example, give the fairly recent invention of cell phones. Sure, it may be great to be able to call anyone from just about every location you may be in. But there is now the new problem of people texting while they are driving, which has resulted in more car accidents and more deaths. Hopefully now you can understand my opinion that so many "convenient" inventions have at the same time resulted in various miseries that didn't exist before the inventions. I am pretty confident that as the next few decades pass, there will be more inventions that will bring a dark side to them. I can guess what some of these double-edged inventions will be. One I would like to talk about is the inevitable invention of people who are cyborgs - part man, part machine. So far, with stuff like artificial hearts, it hasn't been too much of a problem. But what about when more advanced technology in this field comes out. Sure, I can see some good things that will come out. It might help people who are paralyzed to walk again. People implanted with the technology could end up being stronger and smarter. It's here that some potential problems could rise their ugly heads. Someone who could afford to be implanted with computer chips and other gadgets could then have an unfair advantage in the work force when competing with normal human beings. Then there is the potential criminal element. Someone with the strength of the six million dollar man could more easily rob banks or various other businesses, and get away from the scene of the crime more quickly than your average Joe criminal.

When you think about it some more, some darker possibilities come to mind with the introduction of cyborg technology. What if cyborgs in the future, with all their enhanced strength and intelligence start to seriously think that they are much superior than mere mortals? What could they start to do? Take over a country and force everyone to get microchips planted in their bodies? Thinking about Hands Of Steelthat possibility and more, I start to get a little queasy about the future I will probably be living in several decades from now. Since there are already rules about cloning in many countries, maybe some governing body should be set up right now to set the rules about how cybernetic technology should be used in the future. Certainly, there are a lot of movies that suggest cybernetic technology can have a dark side, Hands Of Steel being one such example. The movie suggests that cyborgs could indeed be used for criminal activities. It takes place in the year 1997, and as you no doubt remember from that time, the planet was in the toilet from massive acid raid and other calamities. There is an environmental scientist, however, that may hold the key to reversing the pollution threatening mankind, something that industrialist Francis Turner (Saxon, My Mom's A Werewolf) sees as a threat to him and his business. Turner has a cyborg named Paco Querak (Greene, Falcon Crest) that he commands to track down and eliminate the scientist. Paco tracks down the scientist, but at the last second the human side of this cyborg overrides his programming, and he can't kill the scientist. Instead, Paco flees to Arizona, where he eventually holes up in a motel run by a woman named Linda (Agren, Aladdin), and a relationship start to build between the two. Meanwhile, Turner has found out his creation has turned on him, and decides to sic other cyborgs on Paco in order to eliminate him.

Even if you haven't seen as many movies as I have during my lifetime, I am pretty sure that you caught a whiff of another science fiction movie from that above plot synopsis. That movie being, of course, The Terminator. While Hands Of Steel isn't a blatant rip-off of that movie, elements in this movie like assassin-minded cyborgs, characters being on the run from such cyborgs, and a love story all added together clearly show where this movie got much of its inspiration from. But total originality is a hard thing to do by filmmakers, so I don't immediately sneer at the borrowing of ideas from other movies. But as it turned out, I would not have minded the least had the makers of Hands Of Steel stolen more ideas from The Terminator, or any other good movie for that matter. That's because the new material on display in the movie is mostly forgettable. The movie gets off to an okay start, with the failed opening assassination and Paco subsequently on the run all happening in the first ten minutes. But after that opening, the four credited screenwriters (plus another writer credited for "additional dialogue") seem at a loss as to what to do for the next hour or so. True, there is occasionally a scene showing Turner or his goons trying to track down Paco in order to eliminate him, but for the most part the movie during this long stretch focuses on Paco and Linda at the motel doing various work-related tasks while not feeling that there is any kind of threat coming their way. The screenwriters try to add a little action by introducing a subplot about a mean trucker (played by George Eastman, who was in Detective School Dropouts) who is rubbed the wrong way by Paco, but about the only real action to come from this subplot during this hour are two arm-wrestling sequences. If you consider watching arm wrestling in real life to be just as boring as I do, needless to say you'll just be as uninterested by this film's portrayal of the sport as I was.

As I said, the prime focus in the middle of this movie is on Paco and Linda and their budding relationship instead of sci-fi action. I do have to admit that there is a little spark generated whenever these two characters interact. As the reluctant cyborg, actor Daniel Green certainly does look the part, being acceptably muscular and having a face that looks somewhat stern. Unlike Schwarzenegger's Terminator, this cyborg does express emotion here and there, and while Green's delivery is a little stiff, somehow that is appropriate for someone who is not quite human. He's adequate. As the love interest, Janet Green actually gives a pretty good performance. By her words and her body language, she starts off her scenes by giving her character a kind of weariness; we really feel she has seen it all and is tired by now. When Paco enters her life, she slowly starts to show an interest in this stranger, enough that we can understand when she eventually expresses to him a genuine attraction. There is some genuine character development and chemistry here. Which is more than what can be said by any of the antagonists in the movie. There are several primary villains in the movie, but I think the one that makes the least impact is the leader of them, the Francis Turner character played by John Saxon. It's obvious that Saxon's scenes were filmed in just a few days, maybe even less. In the first hour of the movie, Saxon only makes three (brief) appearances, with each scene with him behind his desk at his office. During the remaining running time of the movie, most of Saxon's subsequent (and equally brief) scenes have him shown seated in a helicopter. Eventually - to be more precise, the final few minutes of the movie - Saxon does finally get off his rear end and tries to throw himself in the climactic action sequence, but it's too little and too late for him to make any serious impact into the movie.

As I just said, there is some action at the very end of Hands Of Steel. To be more accurate, after that mostly boring hour or so of the running time that unfolds after the movie's first ten minutes, the last twenty-five or so minutes are pretty much non-stop action. Is it worth the wait? I'm pretty sure for most viewers, the answer will be no. Oh, there is some mild interest to this action. For one thing, there is some variety to it - we have hand-to-hand combat, machine-gun shootouts, a car chased by a helicopter, as well as some vehicular stunts, among other things. But at its best, the action doesn't bubble too much above the level of routine. At its worst, the action is downright incomprehensible - just try at times to make sense at times of the hand-to-hand combat in the motel room sequence, for example. Though the movie is not just inadequately directed when it comes to the action sequences. It seems most of the budget was blown by transporting the Italian cast and crew to film the bulk of the movie in the United States, since there is more often than not a feeling of cheapness. Although director Sergio Martino (The Violent Professionals) does admittedly capture the haunting feeling of the Arizona desert landscape very well during the scenes that take place outdoors, scenes taking place in interiors have a malnourished and hastily set up feeling more often than not, sometimes laughably so. Unless you believe that a world famous scientist would stay in a fleabag hotel in an extremely run down neighborhood, that is. As you can see by now, Hands Of Steel was not made with very much care. One possible explanation for this may be that the filmmakers were hampered by possessing the attributes announced in the title.

(Posted November 16, 2015)

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See also: Death Machine, R.O.T.O.R., T-Force