Although Canada has turned out its share of cinematic wobblers over the years, they've been low on those post-nuke MAD MAX ripoffs that perpetually glut the direct-to-video market. Maybe Bob and Doug McKenzie's uproarious "Mutants of 2051 A.D." spoof from STRANGE BREW shamed the Canadian
film industry for years. In any case, the moratorium has ended with NEON CITY, a film which also confirms a long-held suspicion that these apocalyptic actioners are a revival of the oft-pronounced-dead Western genre.
Instead of a horse-drawn wagon, this STAGECOACH retread features a turbocharged truck that conveys diverse misfits across the environmentally ravaged wastelands of 2053, where nomadic bandits, toxic mist, lethal sunbursts and those ever-popular mutants pose constant peril. The characters have to
go from the frontier helltown of Jericho Station to glittering Neon City, one of the few strongholds of civilized society. The passengers are cynical bounty-hunter Harry Stark (Michael Ironside); his prisoner, a lovely escaped murderess named Reno (Vanity); Stark's bitter ex-wife Sandy (Valerie
Wildman), now a mail-order bride for some lucky Neonian; a spoiled rich girl called Twink (Juliet Landau); vaudeville comic Dickie Devine (Richard Sanders); and a killer junkie disguised as a doctor, Tom (Nick Klar). There's also the hulking driver Bulk (Lyle Alzado) and a Mysterious Oriental
A formula plot wouldn't be a formula plot if it didn't work reliably time and again, and NEON CITY maintains some interest, even if there aren't many surprises. No sooner does Bulk mention he's got a dear sister in an outlying settlement than she's butchered in a bandit attack. Haughty Twink
learns to be friends with her motley fellow travelers. The Mysterious Oriental turns out to be the missing scientist whose fiddling with the ozone layer brought on the whole ecological mess in the first place, but he redeems himself by rigging a raygun that blasts the marauding meanies. Stark
hears the real story behind Reno's alleged crime, and falls in love with her for a drive-into-the-sunset close. That's not unexpected either given that Vanity looks every bit the sultry Prince protegee that she was, and not even gratuitous nose-picking will convince viewers that she's a hardbitten
The rest of the cast is watchable, with Ironside (SCANNERS, TOTAL RECALL) again demonstrating why he's the premiere screen tough guy north of Eastwood--even if he lacks Clint's wise choice of screenplays. Richard Sanders's Red-Buttons-like turn as an itinerant clown gains a needed edge when it's
revealed that his briefcase of props and magic gags includes a stock of deadly narcotics--the funnyman provides euthanasia service for the maimed and mutated as a sideline. A real-life casualty in 1992 was massive Lyle Alzado (CLUB FED, COMRADES IN ARMS), who succumbed to brain cancer he
attributed to his longtime intake of steroids.
Director and supporting player Monte Markham uses the majestic Utah scenery well and manages the tricky feat of shooting the cramped truck interior with an energetic and fluid lens; paradoxically, action scenes feel wobbly and ill-prepared. There's also a ludicrous bit in which the voyagers
discover and enjoy the world's last surviving hot tub.
At least Markham and his co-screenwriters put some thought into the 21st-century setting and its rich glossary of futurespeak slang. That's untypical for this variety of low-budget sci-fi action genre, in which the monosyllabic scripts seem to write themselves. NEON CITY is far from the worst ROAD
WARRIOR rerun ever, although that's truly faint praise. (Violence, substance abuse, profanity, sexual situations.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1992
- Rating: R
- Review: Although Canada has turned out its share of cinematic wobblers over the years, they've been low on those post-nuke MAD MAX ripoffs that perpetually glut the direct-to-video market. Maybe Bob and Doug McKenzie's uproarious "Mutants of 2051 A.D." spoof from… (more)