Essentially a glorified B-Movie, Mad Max saw Mel Gibson break out as live wire hero cop Max Rockatansky in a not too distant semi-dystopian Australian future. Other than Gibson, and sometimes including him, the acting and scenes are straight out of a direct-to-DVD movie – see Max sitting bolt upright in bed, a red light illuminating his haunted eyes, or his looking under a sheet at the hospital, so I wonder whether this is memorable more for the creation of the character, a Dirty Harry inspired ‘bronze’ who’ll nab his victims by whatever means, and for the supposedly superior sequel (watch this space).
If the recent UK petrol strikes had gone on a little longer, chances are we’d have seen something not too dissimilar to the events here, in George Miller’s 1981 sequel to 1979’s Mad Max. Mel Gibson reprises his role of Australian cop Max Rockatansky, but the world he lives in is now a barren, chaotic land left ravaged by a worldwide war, leaving the survivors desperate for any fuel they can find.
Max and his dog roam the landscape looking for gasoline, eventually hearing about an enormous stash not too far away, and so with the guidance of a deranged nutcase with a flying machine (“It’s my snake, I trained it and I’m gonna eat it.”), set out to find it, but alas the compound within which the gasoline is kept is not only heavily guarded, but is also being laid siege to by a ruthless gang of miscreants.
Whilst this is certainly an improvement on the original movie, there are still a lot of things here that don’t make sense. For starters, the motivation for every character is to end up with more fuel, yet all seem to expend an awful lot more than they need to in order to get any. Whole fleets of cars and motorbikes are sent out on scouting missions, showboating and jumping as they go, and even the compound uses a bus as a gate. If fuel is so very precious, why are they all so eager to waste it?
The costume design has progressed from the previous film, and now the rebel gang has an even greater passion for leather, bondage and ass-less chaps than Max himself. The depiction of a lawless, structureless society is well done – one of the gang’s cars is a cop car, suggesting that it’s not just the general population that has lost it’s mind – and Max readily eats cold dog food, straight from the tin. There’s better characters too, including a feral kid with a deadly boomerang (played by the brilliantly named Emil Minty), and there’s some decent action and chase sequences. The epic finale, with the gang attempting to seize a petrol tanker trying to travel 2,000 miles to paradise, does get a little samey after a while, but is impressive nonetheless. The arm-mounted crossbow though is probably the least threatening weapon I’ve ever seen.
Fortunately, Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome isn’t on the list, but this one is deserving of it’s place. It’s by no means the greatest dystopian future survival movie, but it’s still an enjoyable watch, and certainly has it’s moments.
Choose film 7/10
My main issue is that the character of Max is initially built up as being a kind of supercop brought in when no-one else will do, almost robotic in terms of getting the job done, and for the first scene, in which Max steps in to take out a cop killer and his girl when the rest of the force is lying in a heap of wrecked cars, this seems to fit, but for the next hour we see a completely different character, a family man in need of a break from his high stress job. It’s almost as though Gibson is playing twins. Annoyingly, it’s these more sentimental moments, making up the majority of the film, that prevent MM from being the guy’s night in classic it could well have become, for the scenes of brutality, chases and revenge have real potential.
Another problem is that the film has no real message. The gang of the man Max killed at the start end up tracking Max and his family, yet not because he killed their cohort, simply because they run into each other. It could so very easily have been a vengeance plot, but for reasons unbeknownst to all, this was omitted in favour of fate and coincidence.
Choose life 6/10