Sunday, June 21, 2015

Road Wars (2015)

Welcome to post-apocalyptica, where Mad Max rejects roam the deserted wastelands fighting night-active rabies zombies who might be vampires or something. We concern ourselves with a small group of improbable – they’re just that bad – survivors lead by one Dallas (John Freeman) who are sitting on some sort of source of refined water (the film’s keeping vague about this, as it does about most anything) but have great trouble protecting themselves from the nightly attacks of the zombies. Which might have to do with the fact that they eschew using kiddie stuff like fortifications or even the tiniest of fences and just stand on the roof of a SUV shooting at the not exactly endless number of zombies attacking nightly.

On a boredom expedition looking for the legendary day-walking zombie species, two of our heroes (cough) pick up – well, accidentally shoot - a guy we will later learn is called Thorne (Cole Parker). Thorne has amnesia, does not get metaphors, is not Drax the Destroyer, and is possibly immune against the zombie virus. So, apart from an ammunition run and various other plans that make little sense, the group now plans to fetch that scientific marvel we know as a centrifuge, which is the only device needed for the SCIENCE(!) way to make an antidote. Wait, there are antidotes against viruses? Anyway, things become more complicated thanks to survivor Nakada (Chloe Farnworth) keeping her infected boyfriend alive and hidden, the all-around stupidity of everyone, and the obligatory band of wasteland toughs of the particularly originally named Reaver (Micah Fitzgerald) who have some sort of evil plan, I’m sure.

The Asylum and director Mark Atkins strike again, this time doing Mad Max: Fury Road, just for five dollars and with zombies. That’s, as you can imagine, not exactly a promising set-up, but for the film’s first fifty minutes or so I found myself decently amused by it, even getting small flashbacks towards the golden age of Italian genre cinema when this sort of deeply stupid mix of two of the fad genres of the day happened by the dozens.

Road Wars isn’t quite on the level of the more glorious films of this approach to getting our money, unfortunately. I’m not really complaining about the film making little sense – though I’d sure like to know how the world became a wasteland right in time for the vampire/zombie/whatever virus – because that’s truly par for the course in this sort of thing. I am complaining about the fact that the way it doesn’t make sense becomes increasingly less interesting the longer the film goes on. The bunch of crazy stupid shit it throws at us early on slowly turns into boring stupid shit, with added attempts at creating a dramatic plot that probably would have worked out mildly better if the way the characters behave made even a little bit of sense. Honestly, I have no idea what the final acts of violence here are even supposed to be about. Plus, Road Wars little action set pieces may not be terrible, but they really don’t reach the level of George Miller, Enzo G. Castellari or, frankly, a third-rate Corman director from the 80s; they’re okay, I guess, but this is the sort of film that could really use either the riveting or the plain crazy.

On the other hand, Road Wars does some things right too: it at least attempts very honestly not to be boring, where the success of that attempt depends on your resistance to rampant stupidity and your liking for basic post-apocalyptic bullshit. It suggests that one thing most zombie apocalypse movies do wrong is putting people in sensible clothes, instead of the random and cheap looking assortment of leathers, goggles, face paint, dubious hair (products), antler helmets, fur coats and random dude eyeliner tradition suggests. It very clearly states that the best post-apocalyptic acting is either the dumb staring of Cole Parker and John Freeman, the mild overacting of Chloe Farnworth or Micah Fitzgerald, or the mild, leisurely approach of everyone else, suggesting the apocalypse really is a picnic.

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