Friday, March 27, 2020

Sons of Steel

Sons of Steel
Gary L. Keady

Black Alice (Rob Hartley) is the lead singer of a metal band and a well known anti-nuclear activist. After getting tangled up with a lot of people who don’t particularly like him or his message, they trap him in a hologram. A wandering barbarian couple accidentally releases him from his prison over a century later. Now with only ten hours to live Black Alice must find a way back to his time and he must prevent the nuclear accident that turns the future into the desolate wasteland it is.

"He said hold the mayo."
Sons of Steel embraces a similar gutter cyberpunk aesthetic to Max Headroom (1985), Cherry 2000 (1987) and Tetsuo the Iron Man (1992). High technology exists but it appears to be made out of scraps of old material and machines adapted to a new use. Costuming is the same, people often wear a mishmash of looks and outfits. The end effect creates a chaotic visual hodgepodge that reflects an equally chaotic world teetering on (and eventually falling into) oblivion. The plot itself just barely holds on to any coherence. All of this is strung together by the unusually charismatic lead performance of Rob Hartley as Black Alice.

This is Hartley’s movie, he’s in virtually every scene. Black Alice is a diminutive yet completely ripped lead singer of a metal band also called Black Alice (his band in real life). He's a pacifist (at first) anti-nuclear activist but that doesn’t stop him from daydreaming about gunning down people who annoy him. Did I mention Sons of Steel is also a musical? Black Alice launches into a number of metal ballads throughout the film and they are all pretty great, often adding an amusing and on occasion melancholy note to the scene.

The Cybermen strike!
The plot moves quickly and at first, I felt lost but as things rolled on I realized it doesn’t matter. This is a film where the details are really secondary to the feeling of future shock, amusement, and horror. Sons of Steel even comments on its own disposable story in its final moments as Black Alice rewrites the end of the movie just because he can. Even the power of the narrative is subject to his whims.  With that in mind, it is difficult to feel there is anything at stake here. Even with the threat of nuclear annihilation and a barbaric future, Black Alice is all but invincible. It does let you sit back and enjoy the mayhem but the cost is that it makes the film feel slight.
I went into Sons of Steel completely unaware of what it was about. I understood it was Australian and post-apocalyptic but that only really scratches the surface of this musical cyberpunk fantasy that includes robots, barbarians, and nuclear annihilation. It is a truly bizarre little film and one that begs to have a larger cult following. Check it out before the post-nuclear barbarian riddled hellscape claims us all.

1 comment:

  1. How do you find this movie? Been looking for awhile now. Thanks!