Ex-bounty hunter Dallas McQuaid (Steven Pershing) has a problem. He’s been working as a car salesman since he quit the trade seven ago, and he’s just been unceremoniously fired. While in a bar attempting to drown his sorrows, he finds out persons unknown have put a $5 million bounty on his head. Before he can even finish his beer, all manner of lowlifes are after him to get the money while law enforcement agencies from the local police to the FBI want to bring him in.
That’s “Steel Spirit” in a nutshell. Writer, director, producer, and lead actor Pershing has pulled together his childhood friends, a Hi-8 millimeter video camera, and a shoestring budget to put together what is essentially an homage to the action films of the 1980s, and a reasonably enjoyable one at that.
McQuaid, during his storied career, put away 46 of America’s most wanted. He did all this while searching for the man who killed his family 20 years ago (and all while sporting a snazzy duster and cowboy hat). Once he metes out revenge for that deed, he hangs it up for the next seven years. It isn’t until the aforementioned bounty is issued that he has to dust off his guns and get to the bottom of things.
The cast is pretty competent which, when you consider they’re all unpaid and non-professional, is pretty impressive. Pershing obviously also has a great love for the genre, and throws several action/adventure elements into the pot to make “Steel Spirit” come together. There’s a great broomstick (yes, broomstick) fight that evokes both “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Highlander,” while his shooting angles during the chase scenes make me suspect be was a big “A-Team” fan. There’s a shout-out to “Fantasia,” some evil ninjas, and McQuaid’s tricked-out Plymouth Duster would give the Batmobile a run for its money.
Well, the 1960s Batmobile anyway.
Not all of it really works, or makes sense for that matter. McQuaid and his best friend Jack (Brian Papakie) are apparently ex-Marines, and an oddly hokey interlude utilizing the Corps at Arlington National Cemetery (what better place to hide from the Feds than two miles from the J. Edgar Hoover building?) combined with a truly bizarre climactic dream sequence left me a mite puzzled. Perhaps Pershing initially intended this as a USMC recruiting video.
Still, it’s refreshing to see a low-budget attempt to make an action picture instead of yet another angst-ridden faux deconstructionist diatribe. “Steel Spirit” is a fairly entertaining effort, and one that doesn’t suffer overmuch for its lack of high-end talent or effects, provided you can get past some of the cheesier moments and the intermittent feeling that everyone involved is playing grown-up Cowboys and Indians.
Or why a bald guy with a goatee and a price on his head doesn’t shave and buy a wig.