Some time ago, The Road Warrior gave rise to a sub-genre of cinema that has appealed predominantly to filmmakers of reduced means and no real place to shoot: the post-apocalyptic desert action film. Defined by lackluster gunfights and martial arts, dreary cinematography, bring-it-yourself set designs and costumes, and an occasional grandiose backstory that's often better than anything in the film itself, these titles include the likes of Richard Norton's Raiders of the Sun, Albert Pyun's Knights, and Dolph Lundgren's The Last Warrior, but "Dune Warriors" - the early-90s offering of Filipino B-movie king Cirio Santiago - serves just as fine of an example of the genre as a whole, with the added bonus that it stars the late, great David Carradine.
The story: in New California, 2040 A.D., a small oasis town is terrorized by a legion of raiders led by a ruthless tyrant (Luke Askew, Easy Rider). A brave young woman (Jillian McWhirter, The Dentist 2: Brace Yourself) escapes to find help, which presents itself as a traveling swordsman (Carradine, Kill Bill) who recruits a handful of warriors to protect the village...and fulfill a personal vendetta on the pirate leader.
The good guys' team includes Rick Hill (Deathstalker), a young Blake Boyd (First Kid), and Filipino stars Dante Varona and Maria "I was starting to feel crusty" Lopez...none of whom have the talent or presence of Carradine. The acting as a whole falls on its face: most of the supporting cast would be fit for a high school production for their complete lack of subtlety, and even David Carradine sells explosions going on right behind him as though he were listening to the radio. This is further offset by questionable editing evident when characters' dialogue is abruptly cut off by changing shots and obvious splicing during action scenes. Speaking of action scenes, it might have been a good idea if Santiago had stuck entirely to shootouts and let the martial arts be: everybody who throws a kick looks woefully off-balance with legs wavering in midair.
With that being said, "Dune Warriors" does have soon neat/weird parts to it: when Jillian McWhirter goes out for help, she's promptly chased by a tribe of aboriginal midgets (who are promptly chased away by Carradine, the big scary dude) and later taken to a sort of hero's haven where men in football pads joust on motorcycles. Later still, a hand-to-hand fight breaks out and uplifting orchestral music plays, as though there's something significant about the beating. Oh, and almost everybody in the film uses a sword; nobody's particularly good with 'em, and the final blade-to-blade showdown between Carradine and Luke Askew is a joke, but it's a nifty little touch nonetheless to see everybody toting a blade.
I'm tempted to give this film three stars for the amount of heart it has going on...but then I think of how the barricade constructed by the villagers looks like cardboard, how the absurd knife fight was lifted from the Beat It music video, and how completely ungrounded the Rick/Maria sex scene was, and I remember why most movies like this never saw the inside of a theater. It's not the worst of its kind by a long shot and can, in a pinch, be fun if you've got enough beer and a like-minded buddy around, but sober minds will be hard-pressed to consider this a must-have, including Carradine fans.