One of the nice things about an Italian ripoff film is that it allows us to revisit the worlds of our favorite movies. You don’t need any exposition or set up — you already know all about how New York City got even worse from Escape from New York. Just sit back and enjoy, because Enzo G. Castellari (the director of the original The Inglorious Bastards) is at the wheel.
“In the year 1990 the Bronx is officially declared No Man’s Land. The authorities give up all attempts to restore law and order. From then on the area is ruled by the Riders.”
The Riders are having some problems. There might be a traitor in their midst. And Trash (Mark Gregory, Adam and Eve versus the Cannibals and the sequel to this film, Escape from the Bronx), their leader, can’t get his mind right “now that’s he’s had a taste of Manhattan pussy.” Oh yeah — there’s also a turf war that could break out at any time.
That aforementioned Manhattan pussy is Anna, the heiress to the Manhattan Corporation, an arms company that has no morals. She’s left her duties behind, but the company has hired Hammer (Vic Morrow, The Twilight Zone, Message from Space), a mercenary who was born in the Bronx, to bring her back. His plan? Turn the gang derision up to 11.
Producer Fabrizio De Angelis claimed that he got the idea for this movie when he missed a subway stop and ended up in the Bronx, imagining a future where gangs would battle for their homes. In truth, he probably saw how successful The Warriors was. Sorry, that sounds cynical, but once you see this film’s gangs, like the rollerskating Zombies, you may feel the same way.
With interiors filmed in the actual Bronx and interiors filmed in the totally fake Bronx (regulations required that 50% of a film had to be shot in Italy), the film actually looks pretty great.
Plus, it has one hell of a cast, with Fred “The Hammer” Williamson making Ogre the best character in the movie. Essentially playing the same role as Isaac Hayes in Escape, his outfits, harem of women and fighting style make him stand out. His girlfriend, Witch, is played by 1976 Summer Olympian Elisabetta Dessy and she’s awesome, as she fights with not only a whip but claws, too! And she does it all wearing a cape!
Hot Dog is an informant that Hammer uses against the gang, played by Christopher Connelly of TV’s Peyton Place and Manhattan Baby. And oh shit, George Eastman, Nikos Karamanlis himself, plays Golem, who dresses like a Mortal Kombat character. How can this shit get any better? It can’t. I was so excited during this film — I watched it around 4 AM, when all good movies should be consumed — that I started yelling for the gang to wise up and kill Ice, the traitor who dresses like a Nazi.
There’s also a bonkers scene where the Riders and Tigers meet in front of the World Trade Center and drummers play while they talk. None of the drum playing was scripted! Even better, real Hells Angels — including Chuck Zito — made up most of the bikers in the film (they made fun of the stiff assed way that Mark Gregory walked during filming)! And I haven’t even gotten to the Iron Men, a gang that tap dances!
There’s also some of the best dialogue to ever be uttered in a movie. Seriously, 1990: The Bronx Warriors has a way with expletives that only the finest of swearers can achieve. Some examples include:
“You fuck! Look it could be a pile of shit out of somebody’s asshole!”
“Your mother never gave birth to you, did she. Just popped you into the sewer and split, letting you blossom into the asshole you are today.”
“Keep talking fag face and I’ll rip your fucking head off!”
Words to live by!
After the Riders and the Tigers come together, the man comes down on them hard, sending troops on horseback, armed with flamethrowers. Just like Shakespeare, everyone dies. Even Anne gets killed, but not before she says, “”Remember we in the Bronx live with death!” But don’t worry. Trash is ready, grabbing a grappling hook gun and killing off Hammer (who in a weird meta bit, kills Fred “The Hammer” just moments before). Trash gingerly walks off into the sunset, as if he has batwings.
I don’t know if these words are enough to convince you how much I love this film. It’s a glorious mess, but it’s also like making a suicide soda — the non-PC name we gave pouring every soda on the fountain into one drink. It’s a delirious cavalcade of sugary nonsense, hamfisted pathos and mayhem, where you can’t focus on any one flavor, so you just enjoy them all, but the sugar high gets you past any aftertaste.