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Mad Max

Mad Max

What He said:

He

Mad Max is a staple amongst action movies. It is one of the most defining movies in the post-apocalyptic/dystopian genre too. It’s not that there weren’t any similar movies about the end of days, but no other work of fiction had an impact on the genre the way this did. I’ve played a ton of video games, read books and comics, and have seen movies and television shows that lifted stuff directly from the Mad Max movies. The series is generally responsible for how we think a post-apocalyptic society would look, at least when it comes to our fiction.

It is for that reason that I wanted to sit down and finally watch this classic. I’ve seen bits and pieces of it before, but I’ve never actually seen the whole movie.

Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) is a police officer in a crumbling world. What I find interesting about this approach to the story is that it takes a different approach to the post-apocalyptic genre. Most movies focus on a time long after the initial events that caused society to break down, hence the name post-apocalyptic. In this movie, it’s not quite that far along yet. Society has just started to crumble, but it hasn’t gone completely to hell yet. The gangs have begun to take over the highways, but there’s definitely still law and order, and Max is one of the best.

Ok, so it’s the “not too distant future” (or at least what people thought it would look like in 1979) and the Earth’s energy resources have begun to diminish. Oil in particular, has become very hard to come by. As a result, there is violence all over the place. Society has started to fall apart and some people have essentially de-evolved. There are more-and-more incidents of violence than ever. The highways are overrun with nutjobs. I’m not talking about your minor mischief makers either. These guys do whatever they want whenever they want to whomever they want. They have absolutely no regard for life or authority.

Mad Max

The story begins with the police chasing one of these individuals. A guy who calls himself the “Nightrider” is on the run from the police after escaping from and killing one of them. He is wreaking havoc while fleeing from them too. He causes all kinds of accidents injuring both cops and civilians. Little does he know that Max is listening to the entire thing over his radio and just sitting and waiting for him. Max eventually gets involved in the chase and the Nightrider actually gets himself killed in the process.

This event will lead to a series of other events that will change Max’s life forever. The Nightrider was a member of a gang and the gang’s leader – Toecutter – considered Nightrider a good friend. Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne) wants revenge, and once he finds out Max was the guy chasing Nightrider, he puts Max on his hit list. Toecutter and his gang of psychopaths were already nuts before they had any idea who Max was, but once they find out he killed their friend – and is a cop of all people – there’s no stopping them. This is personal to Toecutter and when things are personal, they get ugly. Once they go after Max, a war between the two sides begins.

I had mentioned earlier I never actually saw this movie in its entirety and knowing its reputation – and being a fan of action movies myself – I was looking forward to finally seeing it. I also like disaster and apocalyptic stories. I like seeing how others think people would react as society falls apart to the point there is little-to-no authority left. I find the concept fascinating. It’s sort of a study in human psychology. How would people react if there was no fear of being punished? If you are anything like me – and the creators of most stories like this – you are inclined to believe they’d turn into absolutely terrible people. Considering those themes, it’s actually quite a simple movie. It has some underlying messages, but the execution is very down-to-Earth in many ways. That’s what I really like about it. It’s got a subtext, but isn’t all faux intellectual or elitist about the story.

It’s a lot of fun to watch too.

Mad Max

Max is a good cop. He cares about the cause, is good at his job, and is a family man too. In a world that is falling apart, he has maintained a pretty normal life. But being a cop in this kind of world, he eventually gets a target put on his back. The question is when the criminals cross the line what is he going to do about it? Will he maintain his reputation or descend into madness with them?

I also loved the look and feel of this movie. The music, the leather-clad characters, the screaming maniacs, and the Wild West environment they live in are all a lot of fun to watch. I don’t know if this movie is officially a B movie or not, but it has that look and feel without looking cheap or phony. The production value is good.

The performances are solid. Mel Gibson puts on a solid performance as a guy who is totally by the book, but is forced to make some tough decisions when these lunatics come after him. There’s some good character development here, especially for a “B movie”.  Every single one of the gang members is nuts. These are the kind of guys who think rape and murder are fun. And every single one of the performances was great. These are very unlikeable characters. They are also totally out there too. Even when they’re not causing trouble and just hanging around, they ramble just as incoherently as you would think somebody like that would. They portrayed disturbed people very well.

There’s lots of great road action too. The movie isn’t big on fist fights, but that doesn’t even matter. Watching the action sequences on the highways is just as satisfying. It’s actually a nice break from the typical rock em’ sock em’ kind of stuff you usually see in an action movie. There’s no big final fight between the two main characters in that sense. There are a lot of motorcycles, cars, collisions, and other creative ways of kill a human being in the movie.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on January 12, 2014.

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