Film Review: Warlords of the 21st Century (1982)

Also known as: Battletruck (US), Destructors (Italy)
Release Date: January 1982 (New Zealand)
Directed by: Harley Cokliss
Written by: Irving Austin, John Beech, Harley Cokliss
Based on: a novel by Margaret Abrams
Music by: Kevin Peek
Cast: Michael Beck, Annie McEnroe, James Wainwright, Bruno Lawrence, John Bach, Randolph Powell, John Ratzenberger

Battletruck Films Ltd., New World Pictures, 91 Minutes


I never knew about this movie but while reading Joe Bob Briggs’ book Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In he discussed a few films that were Mad Max ripoffs. This was one of those films, so I thought I’d check it out. Also, it stars Michael Beck from The Warriors and John Ratzenberger, who played Cliff on Cheers. So what’s not to love?

Warlords of the 21st Century was one of those movies that played the drive-in and grindhouse circuits when it came to the states and was re-titled Battletruck. I think in some markets, it kept its original name though.

The film is a post-apocalyptic drama with a lot of action. In a nutshell, Michael Beck has a futuristic dirt bike and while out in the wasteland, discovers a girl being chased by some thugs in a jeep. He rescues her and takes her to a settlement to live with other people. He doesn’t stay because he’s your stereotypical cool loner type. The settlement is attacked and the girl escapes back to Michael Beck’s house. You soon discover that the attackers and their big armored semi truck are looking for the girl as the madman behind the gang thinks she is his property. Mayhem and destruction ensues and it all ends with a final showdown of Michael Beck against the “battletruck” and the gang’s leader.

The film has pretty good cinematography as it showcases great New Zealand landscapes but for anyone who has seen the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, New Zealand really sells itself and all you have to do is point the camera.

The acting isn’t as bad as you’d think for a film of this caliber. While Michael Beck isn’t an Oscar level performer, he is still believable as the tough and cool hero, just as he was in The Warriors. Annie McEnroe was a good and believable heroine that held her own with the men of the cast. John Ratzenberger had a small role but he stood out amongst the crowd of supporting characters whenever he was on screen.

The truck looked cool but it’s danger factor was a bit overblown. I feel like it would have been pretty easy to defeat had the people in the settlement been prepared and anticipated it crashing through their gates. First and foremost, build a damn moat with a drawbridge or at the very least, have a big pit and a drawbridge behind the gate, so when the truck bursts through, it is immobilized and easy to destroy. Make that thing a sitting duck and pick off the gang as they try to escape. It doesn’t take a genius to strategize these things, so I have to take some points away from the film for sheer stupidity. But I guess the whole point was to make a movie about a semi truck of death and taking it out in the first act would have ended the movie pretty quickly.

Stupidity aside, it was an entertaining movie to watch. Besides, it isn’t like I haven’t suspended disbelief over worse things.

Rating: 5/10

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