Review: Hands of Steel (1986)

Hands of Steel
aka Vendetta dal futuro (original title)
aka Atomic Cyborg
aka Fists of Steel

Directed by Sergio Martino
Starring Daniel Greene, Janet Agren, Claudio Cassinelli, George Eastman, John Saxon

Sometimes you can tell immediately that an event is changing your life, like when you buy your first car or when that engagement ring is slipped onto your finger.

Or when you watch Hands of Steel for the first time.

When you see a cyborg compete in an arm-wrestling match.

When you see John Saxon shoot a rocket out of a shotgun.

My copy of Hands of Steel is the panned-and-scanned version, which looks like it was ripped from a worn-out videotape. The colors aren’t exactly right and the dialogue is all a tad difficult to understand. Everything’s a little blurry. The music score sounds like it’s been chewed on. But this is the way it was meant to be seen.

In the future, Paco Queruak (Greene) is a cyborg assassin sent to kill a famed scientist on the verge of changing the world. When the moment comes, he pulls his blow (because suddenly, humanity) and escapes into the sewers. Two cars and hundreds of miles later, he finds himself at the Champions Oasis, an arm-wrestling bar/diner/hotel where he meets the beautiful Linda (Agren) and the sneering, antagonistic Raul Morales (Eastman). After Paco wins an arm-wrestling match, things get heated, and he’s chased out of the area by Raul and his mullet-sporting posse. On top of all this, Paco’s former employers (Saxon & Cassinelli) have tracked him down. And they’ve brought their rocket-launching shotguns.

Director Sergio Martino (Torso) delivers what has to be the most over-the-top redneck arm-wrestling renegade cyborg science-fiction romp ever to come out of Italy. Entire scenes exist solely to show off another of the costume designer’s sleeveless sweatshirt creations. Everyone’s dialogue is dubbed over with terrible southern American and Mexican accents. The film’s extras seem to be wearing Andy Griffith’s dirty laundry. Everyone is covered in a thick sheen of sweat.

Paco Queruak is played to perfection by Daniel Greene, an actor with one facial expression: Drunk to the point of passing out. His beefy torso is the real star of the movie, backed up by his ridiculous bodybuilder arms. John Saxon appears in about three scenes, all of which were  filmed in ten minutes or less. His wardrobe doesn’t change, and neither does his facial expression, which can only be described as “pure Saxon.” Late in the film, he sticks a plastic rocket into the end of a shotgun and fires it at a semi trailer, which promptly explodes. John Saxon, you’re my hero. You’re everyone’s hero.

A surprisingly catchy theme circles and surrounds the insane backwoods storyline, which includes intoxicated arm-wrestling, ’80s computer tomfoolery, an out-of-nowhere trip to a strip club, and scenes lifted straight out of The Terminator. And I can’t make out if the film’s events are set in the future or just the ’80s. They’re sort of similar. To top all of this beautiful madness off, the ending stand-off called for police cars, which the production obviously couldn’t afford. They ended up using station wagons. Perfect.

At the film’s climax, Paco Queruak delivers a brief monologue to John Saxon’s character:

“You made one mistake, Turner. You thought you could own me by controlling my . . . my brain. But what you didn’t realize is that you don’t own a man until you control his heart.”

Sure, it sounds like a botched first take. Sure, Daniel Greene doesn’t seem to know what any of these words mean.

But at that moment, I knew Hands of Steel had forever changed my life.

And it could change yours, too.


Amazon – Pure Terror: 50 Movie Pack (includes Hands of Steel)
Amazon – Hands of Steel VHS
YouTube – Original Theatrical Trailer
YouTube – Full Movie
YouTube – Main Theme by Claudio Simonetti

4 Responses to “Review: Hands of Steel (1986)”
  1. gus says:

    I totally agree. Hands of steel is an icon and an icon in many poeples.lives for some reason I cannot explain. It still is in my memory and changed my life for ever since I rented it in the 80’s just like another movie, not knowing it wasn’t. Impossible to forget Paco, Linda and Raul. Still one of my favorite movies and one of the best fight scenes ever in action. Like I said, I don´t know why. Magic, may be, once in a whole life.

  2. Aaron says:

    who is that hot blonde actress (suzy) that biker chick that fights paco…does anyone no of her real name or other movies she did

    • I’ve looked high and low – The actress doesn’t even seem to be credited! IMDB doesn’t even give her an “uncredited” mention, so she may not have been in anything else of note.

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