Steel Dawn was one of numerous copies of Mad Max 2 (1981) that came out during the 1980s. Most Mad Max copies were happy to borrow from other genres, including the kung fu and samurai film and the Western. Indeed, Mad Max 2 was a Western at heart with mohawked bikers for Indians, custom cars for horses, a small enclave of remaining civilisation in place of peaceful smalltown ranchers, the post-holocaust landscape for the American frontier and so on. Steel Dawn makes the transplanted Western idea overt the plot is essentially a reworking of Shane (1953), which featured Alan Ladd as a gunslinger who tries to settle down only to find himself caught in a conflict between a ruthless land baron and peaceful settlers.
Steel Dawn has attained some incredibly bad reviews, although it is not entirely bad. It lets the clichés recur with an undemanding familiarity. Though the fight scenes are somewhat overdone, they do contain a sufficiently meaty punch. Steel Dawn was shot on location in Namibia. The most striking thing about the film are the beautiful desert sunsets and sand formations and the evocative post-holocaust images of ships stranded in the desert and long trails of abandoned railway crossbars that run to the horizon.
Patrick Swayzes silent mien and limited expressiveness is passably well suited to the literally Man with No Name persona as perfected by Clint Eastwood. Anthony Zerbe and Christopher Neame do adequately in one-dimensional villain roles. Lisa Niemi, the love interest of the film, was Patrick Swayzes wife in real life. One can also spot Arnold Vosloo of The Mummy (1999) fame in a minor role as a thug.
Steel Dawn director Lance Hool is better known as a producer. He first appeared as producer of various Charles Bronson vehicles 10 to Midnight (1983) and The Evil That Men Do (1984) and Chuck Norriss Missing in Action (1984), before making his directorial debut with Missing in Action 2: The Beginning (1985). Lance Hool would only make three films as director and subsequently went onto produce films like The Air Up There (1994), Gunmen (1994), Flipper (1996), Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (2001) and Man on Fire (2004).