They brought the fight, but this time it’s Squaw !
A corrupt senator, in cahoots with an equally avaricious corporate magnate named Philip Thorne, uses his status to quash the human rights of a Native American tribal council to steal their peoples land for the purpose of a nuclear waste development. The local sheriff’s department are paid off and some of Thorne’s men are sent in to intimidate Chief Shadow Feather to sign over his peoples land. Headed up by Thorne’s right hand man Carl Rikker (Mitch Pileggi), a cold hearted and malicious individual, things immediately go beyond intimidation. Both Chief Shadow Feather and his wife are pushed around and beaten in front of their young daughter Rhiya. When Rhiya displays a spirit of great fortitude in one so young, her strength of character is turned against her and her parents, as the malignant Rikker turns a blade she has picked up in defence into a weapon of attack. Rikker forcibly grabs the petrified young Rhiya’s knife wielding hand, and thrusts it with the blade into the sternum of her father. He then with further intent forces the child’s hand with bloodied blade up into the stomach of her weeping mother. Both parents are killed at the forced hand of their distraught daughter.
With the perjured testimonies of the sheriff’s department and the overseeing might of the senate the court hand over the land to the Thorne Corporation and condemn the child Rhiya Shadow Feather for the murder of her parents. The statements given tell of an Indian ritual ending with the killing of Chief Shadow Feather and his wife at the hands of their mentally disturbed daughter. Rhiya is given a life sentence and immediately sent to the Colorado state institute for women due to her evaluation of unstable mental health.
Twelve years pass and the Thorne Corporation has been hard at work, taking the resources of the rightfully Native American land and usurping it for his own insatiable end. The institutionalised Rhiya Shadow Feather has also been working hard, upon her own body and spirit. Her mind focused on the traumatic events that condemned her to a life of incarceration, and her body pushed to the limits of physical exertion with a daily routine of strength and fitness development. A parole hearing affords her a transfer from the mental health institute to the Colorado state penitentiary for women. Transit by road proves to be an opportunity for her to right the wrongs of over a decade gone by. The prison driver encounters an unanticipated problem at speed and the vehicle careens off the route way, crashing down a rocky climb to eventually explode in a plume of uncontrolled fire. The now adult Rhiya Shadow Feather manages to scramble clear of the wreck before the explosion.
During her time away Rhiya’s sleeze bag oppressors have all been set up with the perks and trappings of a privileged lifestyle. With the benefit of anonymity attained by her announced death, and the advancement from childhood into womanhood, Rhiya has the advantage of stealth to seek out these miscreants and exact her vengeance upon them. A less extreme variation of the infamous Day Of The Woman (1978) follows, with the erudite paroxysm of Fabrizio De Angelis’ (aka Larry Ludman) Thunder (1983) and its sequels.
Rhiya is the embodiment of her tribal spirit the Raven Hawk. Its incumbent stature displayed with pride and honour in the form of a tattoo etched upon her body, symbolising its meaning and transience between this world and the next. Her body, mind and soul now as one with the Raven Hawk, Rhiya strikes back !.
The first visitation with her new found freedom is to the paupers grave site where her parents are laid to rest. Rhiya then reclaims her only surviving heritage as she reunites with her feisty family horse Dakota, taking it back from a cruel treating farm owner with a swift blow of retribution. Beauty and the beast together again they ride like the wind to her family and tribes reservation, before it was taken from them, to gaze first hand over the industrial eyesore of the Thorne Corporation. She then sets about calling upon those that were involved in the act that led to her parents untimely deaths, to deliver upon them her own brand of final justice.
Her first port of call is to a seedy hired hand of Thorne’s who is set up with his own sea diving and boat hiring business. Rhiya signs up for a one to one diving trip that goes down well with the sleaze bag, right up until being out at sea and then his realisation of who his client actually is. He next turns up in the community coroners, dead upon his cold slab, minus his scalp sliced from his skull by the serrated blade of a knife !. His demise is quickly followed by that of a fellow despicable cohort at the hands of Rhiya, as she sends him spiralling down to his death from the great height of a connecting bridge betwixt a ravine far below. Her calling card, despite her reported death, resonates Thorne’s attention and to deal with the situation he immediately hires a three man hit team. The sequence of events that unfolds involving them tracking her, and being tracked themselves, is worthy of a short film within the feature all itself.
It’s solid Action all the way as Rhiya is chased across the rocky desert terrain, calling upon all her self training to pull her through and subjugate the three professional hit men. All have individual skills including tracking, trap setting, and weaponry, along with a collective pen chance for completing their contracts successfully. Rhiya Shadow Feather is, however, a breed apart and her compulsion to see her journey through is ultimately greater !. A frantic fight for survival plays out across a multiple of terrains, where all wheel drive vehicles and motorcycle square up against one horse power riding Native American warrior woman, saddled up as a signature for the stuff of Native American Indian legend !.
Rachel McLish is one very fit and agile lady, likely employing all her own natural ability to undertake not only the lead role but doing most, if not all, of her own stunt work and fighting scenes in the movie. A real find, and another well sculptured, chiselled featured Adonis that Albert Pyun uncovers for his films. She gives great credence to her star role, and every moment of on screen hard edged slice of endurance and embroiled physicality is served up believably for all to see and enjoy. She is bullied and beaten but never broken, as her unyielding spirit sees her through to the inevitable collision with her nemesis, Philip Thorne (William Atherton).
Raven Hawk is high yielding, quality Action, old school Al Dante style. Director Albert Pyun delivers the goods with consummate skill, like a spaghetti western wearing Dirty Harry shoes, and an Eighties styled Italian poncho.
The lavish expanse of the Colorado vista is lovingly realised with sweeping panoramic cameras, sadly not done justice to when viewing in a non letterboxed viewing format. This, along with Albert Pyun’s entire back catalogue is crying out to be reissued in its full and proper scope format, for a generation of both old and new fans of the ‘Pyuneering’ director to embrace and enjoy !.
Review Paul Cooke
Raven Hawk (1996)
Director Albert Pyun
With Rachel McLish, John Enos III, Ed Lauter,
Mitch Pileggi & William Atherton