Firebird 2015 AD

A severe gas shortage in the near future forces the government to ban the use of automobiles altogether and make the act of driving one a punishable capitol offense. However, a feisty pocket of rebellious gear-jamming metalhead race car enthusiasts called “burners” obstinately refuse to knuckle under Uncle Sam’s oppressive reign, hording what little precious gas is left and happily tearin’ their souped-up cars across the desolate desert terrain. Crusty ace driver Red (the always exuberant Darren McGavin, carrying on with greater flair and verve than the sub-par material deserves) and rascally fellow old-timer Indie (the solid George Touliatos) are two such guys, whooping it up as they constantly elude getting nabbed by a band of hard-nosed police officers who are very eager to nail their annoyingly evasive hides.

While the premise — basically a science fiction version of a Burt Reynolds-style good ol’ boy outrunning the pigs car chase romp — has promise, it’s fatally ruined by David M. Robertson’s limp’n’lifeless (non)direction and a paltry, insufficiently thought-out bare-bones script. Moreover, the futuristic setting is depicted with a critical lack of conviction: there are no special effects to speak of, the cars look plain and antiquated, and the spartan costume designs are simply pathetic. Worse yet, the fuzzball baddies led by a sleepwalking Doug McClure are hopelessly colorless and nonthreatening; only a murderously crazed Native American nutcase trooper (outrageously overplayed by Alex Diakun) radiates any necessary sense of genuine menace. The redneck protagonists are equally insipid and unprepossessing; the picture’s already slack pace screeches to a dead halt during the excruciatingly blah romantic courtship scenes between Red’s wimpy estranged son Cameron (the gratingly whiny Robert Charles Wisden) and Indie’s fiery foxy daughter Jill (vivaciously essayed by cute brunette hottie Mary Beth Rubens). But the movie’s grossest, most egregious and unforgivable blunders have got to be the copious, but poorly staged and thus unexciting car race sequences and a gruelingly tedious surplus of hideously banal dialogue (sample line: “Keep your pedal down and your sunny side up”). So, despite some good acting and nice photography, this worthless rusty clunker overall sadly remains in teeth-gnashing neutral from the dreary start right on down to the spiritless finish.