The Ultimate Warrior - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Ultimate Warrior Reviews

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July 3, 2014
This is another favorite of mine. It's not quite on a level with other apocalyptic 70s flicks like Omega Man and Soylent Green but, it is actually a decent flick and a lot of fun and is a lesser known film from that era but, does fit in well with those other flicks for a 70s futuristic film fest featuring Ten Commandments actors... only a film geek would come up with that combo and as these films illustrate, it's enjoyably do-able!

The film takes place in NYC of the year 2012 (was made in 1975 so we'll cut their vision of our present decade some slack) in a world decimated by an epidemic where food is now scarce and savage gangs roam the streets with the last, more civilized survivors living in secured compounds within the city. One such compound is run by The Baron (Max Von Sydow) a kind-hearted man who has provided a home, some hope and even food for a small group of survivors under his leadership. His man Cal (Richard Kelton) has even gotten vegetables to grow again in a rooftop garden. But, Baron sees the group deteriorating and if that's not enough, there is constant harassment by the thugs of a larger and more aggressive neighboring compound run by the ruthless Carrot (legendary TV and movie bad guy William Smith). But, hope arrives in the form of Carson (Yul Brynner) a man who makes his living as a fighter protecting such compounds. Baron hires Carson but, upon hearing the warrior's plan to one day retire to a small island off the Carolina coast, Baron decides to send his pregnant daughter (Joanna Miles) and Cal's seeds along with Carson to this sanctuary to start fresh and maybe give humanity a chance to re-bloom. But, with the discovery of his plan, compound members feel betrayed and start to turn on their benefactor and worse yet, Carrot has decided to destroy his rivals for good and take what's theirs, as well as, their lives... and Carson is the only one who stands in the way of what might be civilization's final downfall. But, the odds are great and his is but one man.

Written and directed by Enter The Dragon's Robert Clouse, this is an entertaining action flick that shares similar 70s films' bleak vision of what the 21st century would be like. It moves quickly and smartly uses it's aging star to it's advantage. Brynner was 55 when he made this and while he still is in fairly good shape, his age is showing and it gives the illusion of a man whose been physically punished by a violent life in the streets and would really like to retire his knife. Clouse's script is not perfect. There are plot holes... such as why Carrot didn't send his thugs to take out Carson before he was hired by Baron and eliminate a potential advantage by his rival... and the film does have more of a TV movie look then a feature film but, it was made for a very modest budget even at this time. What Clouse does succeed at is creating some interesting characters and keeping the action scenes very grounded so they appear more as brutal street fights then choreographed and he takes his story seriously and the film never becomes campy. It's humor comes from some nice interaction between characters, there is some nice dialog moments especially between Carson and Baron, but, otherwise maintains a dark and serious tone. He successfully portrays the disintegration of the group and the foolish things people do when panicked and scared and the harm their panic causes. He also creates an atmospheric world where desperate times can lead to savage actions and normally peaceful people will behave with almost gleeful brutality. It is ironic that fighter Carson may be one of the more civilized people when the others start to turn vicious. He at least only kills in self defense or with good reason. In the last third, Clouse also gives us a fairly suspenseful cat and mouse chase under the streets of New York as Carrot pursues Carson escorting the about-to-give-birth Melinda (Miles) through the subway system. The film's last act is entertaining and has some brutal moments but, also provides some glimmer of hope that civility and peace might some day return to this shattered world.

The cast are also strong among the principles. There is some weak overacting by some of the lesser supporting characters but, the main cast all do strong work. Brynner is a legend and here he creates a Samurai like character in the noble but, deadly Carson. Despite the savagery around him and being a killer, he actually is far more grounded then the panicked and desperate people he protects. All he really wants is a quiet place to live out his days and a good cigar. He seems to have made his peace with the world and how he is forced to live in it and is far more stable then those around him who quickly turn on each other over a piece of fruit or a bag of beans. Von Sydow is also quite endearing as the Baron. A man of quiet strength and fortitude who still sees hope but, is also smart enough to know when a cause is lost. He is a self sacrificing man who knows when he has done all he can. He and Brynner have some very charming dialog scenes together and they seem to legitimately like each other. It creates a nice character dynamic. Smith is basically a stereotypical villain with the violent dictator that is Carrot but, it is a role Smith made a career out of playing and he is damn good at it and gives the simply written Carrot a lot of character and threat with the minimal dialog he has. Smith has always had a strong screen presence and he uses it to good effect here. One of the film's flaws is that the final confrontation with Carson and Carrot should have been a bit more epic, it was over a little too quick for the build-up of expectations and needed to have more impact. Rounding out is Miles, presenting a strong woman in Melinda, Kelton is very likable as the scientist Cal and we get a young Stephen McHattie as a compound member and new father trying to do what's right for his family while dealing with an increasingly panicked wife. A solid cast in the lead roles.

Overall I like this film very much as you can tell. Sure it's cheesy by today's standards and it's not perfect. There are plot holes and a little overacting from the supporting cast. But, Robert Clouse gives us some solid lead characters, some brutal violence and keeps a tense atmposhere. He gets great work from veterans Brynner and Von Sydow and creates a world where danger lurks both outside and within as desperation makes people forget their civility and loyalty. It's not a perfect film but an entertaining one and one now enhanced by some good old fashioned 70s nostalgia. A personal guilty pleasure and one I recommend for those who haven't seen or heard of it. Not a great movie but, a good one and one sadly overlooked and underrated.
½ June 15, 2013
Anachronism alert: the Twin Towers remain standing in the year 2012 A.D.--Patchwork!!
½ October 27, 2012
Grim futuristic film set in 2012 New York after a plague has destroyed most of the earth's food supply. However, vegetable seeds are developed in an inner city fortress that must get out. Really liked the subway sets. Could have been great.
October 14, 2012
want to c veri wicked
½ August 23, 2012
Futuristic film set in 2012 New York that feels like it had the potential for greatness but never quite gets there. A bit of a forgotten gem nonetheless. One of Yul Brynner's last roles as a loner joins a band of survivors battling against William Smith's gang on a desolate Earth.
½ April 23, 2012
This "post plague" action adventure starring the most fabulous Yul Brynner who almost burns through the screen with his presence is a very nice time piece of the 1970's. I absolutely love the atmosphere of this little gem. I recommend it 4 sure.
½ March 12, 2012
Redeemed a bit by fun performances from Max Von Sydow and Yul Brenner. More time should've been spent on the script and more money spent on the sets. Ends up being run of the mill.
February 16, 2012
Moderately amusing actioner that would seem to be a template for the sort of thing that the Italians pumped out in droves during the 80's (aside from not having any cars). Kind of strange that Yul Brynner and Max Von Sydow would be in a picture like this, but given that Brynner only had another two credits after this, I guess it's a money picture, maybe? Overall, not bad, but not amazing.
½ April 4, 2011
Grim futuristic film set in 2012 New York after a plague has destroyed most of the earth's food supply. However, vegetable seeds are developed in an inner city fortress that must get out. Really liked the subway sets. Could have been great.
February 18, 2011
Im not one to usually promote remakes but The Ultimate Warrior is one that should get the treatment. It would make a perfect piece for The Rock or good return project for Schwarzenegger. In future New York (which is pretty much modern day now) a plague has come across the land wiping out the live stock & vegetation. A small colony are growing hybrid vegetables & William Smith (I fucking love movies w/ William Smith in them) & his gang will take them by violent means. To protect themselves the colony hire Yul Brynner to protect them. A little generious in my rating because it doesn't deliever on all fronts I love the climax in this. I was watching & said to myself Brynner should cut off his hand & damned if he did. Then I said he should sear it & it did. I just thought that fucking rocked & left a smile on my face @ the end
½ December 16, 2010
NEW YORK NE REPOND PLUS en vf. Quelques annà (C)es avant NEW YORK 1997 et surtout MAD MAX 2, le post apo format western se dessinait tranquillement mais sûrement une ligne de conduite dont ses nombreux descendants auront du mal à se dà (C)faire.
September 2, 2010
It was a pain to watch this through. It wasn't bad enough to be good. The soundtrack was nice though.
March 6, 2010
Not an end-of the-world classic like "The Omega Man", but an enjoyable action tale set in a post apocalyptic New York City. Yul and Max are fine, but for my money, William Smith steals the show as the villainous gang leader Carrot, a name that surely strikes fear in his enemies. The climactic fight blew my mind when I originally saw this film as a kid.
½ February 23, 2010
Only a small advice: If you wanna make a post apocalyptic movie just watch this masterpiece and try (unsuccesfully, of course) to beat it.
January 11, 2010
It seems that we are once again obsessed with dark dystopian futures (THE ROAD, THE BOOK OF ELI, etc.) so I return once again to the post-Hippie Watergate era 1970s when science-fiction films were obsessed with dystopias. Police states ala 1984 (THX 1138), Malthusian over-population (SOYLENT GREEN), ecological collapse (SILENT RUNNING), and an LA overrun by albino biological warfare victilms that only Chuck Heston can stop (THE OMEGA MAN). THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR is one of those pre-STAR WARS dystopian science-fiction films. It is often described as the first "Kung-fu Sci-fi" films as it was directed by martial arts maven Robert Clouse. Yul Brynner was in his fifites by this point but still looks convincing as the "ultimate warrior" of the title. He is hired by the Baron (Max Von Sydow) who leads one of the largest groups of survivors in post-holocaust NYC. The film is set in 2012 after civilization has collapsed for unknown reasons (ecological collapse, social collapse, biological warfare or a combination of all three-given the merely abandoned state of "Fun City" I suspect that an all-out nuclear conflict is unlikely the cause). With just a knife and his superior fighting skills, Bryner takes on all comers. Luckily his opposition are using bows, crossbows, and thrown rocks and spears (and are all lousy shots). I guess they ran out of ammunition for all the guns, no one seems to have even a single .38 S&W.
½ December 14, 2009
Solid, but nothing spectacular.
½ August 17, 2009
cheesy in that classic 1970's, post-Woodstock way but still a good take on the EOTW theme
March 12, 2009
Max von Sydow phones it in, but Yul Brynner is pretty badass in this so so post-apocalyptic actioner.

25th Film of 2009
November 23, 2008
want to c veri wicked
September 10, 2008
Ok sort of sci fi meets kung fu movie. Better really to watch Yul Brynner as the gunslinging robot in Westworld actually. I think the book was better, as the film is rather slowly paced and sort of trundles to an end. If I remember correctly Brynner escapes the city with Joanna Miles but everyone else dies. Neatly done, I suppose.
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