Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

‘The Terminator’ was a cool movie, right?  And that Stallone arm-wrestling movie ‘Over the Top’ was cool too, right?  Right?  Okay, maybe not, but what if you combined the two… A Cyborg living in the present, sent to the present, to kill some guy, and this cyborg likes to arm-wrestle in his spare time.  Does that sound a winning combination to you?  Hell yeah it does, and it is called ‘Hands of Steel’. 

It’s the future, even though it looks just like 1986 when this movie was filmed, and Dr. Arthur Mosley (Franco Fantasia) is the leader of a radical group of environmentalist that don’t like pollution.  Well, in this reality, if you don’t like pollution then you don’t like to live so the completely evil Francis Turner (John Saxon) sends his newly minted cyborg Paco Queruak (Daniel Greene) to take him out.  Paco shows up on the scene, and it looks like an easy enough job since the old man is blind and crippled, but something in Paco stops him from finishing his mission.  I mean he did beat the old, blind and wheelchair bound man near to death, but he didn’t kill him. 

Now what’s a cyborg to do?  Eventually our Cyborg makes his way to Arizona and some out of the way motel run by the sultry Linda (Janet Agren) who gives her new, gigantic, bronzed stallion a place to hole up as long as helps around the establishment.  It’s not long before Paco makes an enemy in arm-wrestling champ Raul Morales, as played by legendary George Eastman looking a little more sweaty than usual.  Raul challenges Paco, unaware that he’s a cyborg, and subsequently gets his ass kicked.  Then, Raul’s boys try to get ill, and they get a face full of cyborg Kung Fu for their trouble. 

While all of that is going on, Turner has his people searching for Paco because he has be terminated, so to speak, before the authorities find him.  The authorities for their part are on the prowl trying to figure out the weapon that almost killed the professor.  It looks like a hand, judging from their fancy computer graphics, but that’s just crazy.  No, really… the wacky computer graphics and the logical conclusion they made to determine it was a hand, and thus a cyborg, was crazy.

Nonetheless, a full assault on poor Paco is on, as the evil people, other cyborgs, armed villains and arm wrestling champs are in hot pursuit of him and his new true love.  And his enemies have unearthed the BIGGEST GUN EVER.  No, seriously, it’s the biggest gun ever.  There are probably bigger guns on Battlships and destroyers, but you can’t just toss those over your shoulder and run around with them.  Not that this big ass gun is going to do anybody any good against Paco, a man who might have cybernetic brain, but a human heart.  That’s what Paco said.  Kind of.
Since ‘Hands of Steel’ came from out of Italy during the 1980’s it’s going to be a wacky endeavor just by default, and then toss in the Cyborg / Arm-wrestling angle with a little ‘Bladerunner’ to top of it all off and it sets the wacky meter on fire.  But while ‘Hands of Steel’ is plenty wacky, it’s also oddly entertaining.  You walk into the movie expecting your typical Italian festival of cheese, especially considering that Sergio Martino, masquerading under the nom de plume of Martin Dollman, was behind the camera, and while ‘Hands of Steel’ does have its fair share of cheese, it also has equal amounts of kick-ass to balance everything out.

For starters, Daniel Green made for a pretty good hero.  Sure he’s big and muscular and stuff, but he can also act a little bit, at least enough to appear to be more than just a robotic lunkhead, and he succeeded in giving his character some depth.   Then there’s the legend that is John Saxon, who can dial up any kind of bad guy that you want him to be and play that bad guy, just how he needs to be played.  George Eastman playing a Mexican was a little strange, but if there’s an Italian legend on the same level of John Saxon, then this guy is George Eastman.  But what really sets the movie off is the action, which is endless and completely over the top.  Car chases, big rig chases, helicopter chases, cyborg battles, kung fights, arm-wrestling duke outs, shoot outs and big ass guns, with most everything ending in some kind of explosion.  You can’t beat that with a stick, plus it kept the dialog low and as such boredom was almost non-existent. 

Granted, there is healthy amount of stupid stuff in this movie and the story doesn’t make a heckuva lot a sense, if any sense, but an Android / Arm-Wrestling epic, which I think this is the only movie like that only made… we hope… ‘Hands of Steel’ ended up straddling the borderline of awesome.  Didn’t quite make it all the way to the magical land of awesome, but it did get close.

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