Review 20: Mad Max (1979)
One of my favorite movies of 2015 was Mad Max: Fury Road, but I almost didn’t see it. I had never seen any of the previous films, I wasn’t really familiar with George Miller’s work, and the trailer just looked like chaos. Luckily, my fellow film friend, David, convinced me to head to the theater and check it out on opening night. I left with my mind blown and trying to decipher how a film focused on driving could be so awesome. Not too long after seeing the film I began purchasing the Blu-ray copies of the old ones, but until today hadn’t watched any of them. Mad Max, which has a 7.0 out of 10 stars on IMDB and 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, was approached with lots of anxiety and hope that I would enjoy it.
Max (Mel Gibson) is introduced as a police officer in a world that seems to be falling apart. After a car chase ends with the criminal dying in a pretty impressive crash, his motorcycle gang looks for revenge badly burning Goose, which sends Max wanting to quit the force. Another encounter with the motorcycle gang sends Max spiraling into madness and he seeks them out to end the conflict. The film starts a little slow and I found the dialogue to be hard to hear clearly, but it really is paced well and ends with quite a bang.
This movie made me sad as I miss young Mel Gibson by comparison to current Mel Gibson. While I never saw any of the Mad Max films, I was an avid viewer of the Lethal Weapon franchise when I was younger and his blend of crazy, comical-action star rivals my other 80’s favorite, Bruce Willis. This movie had flashes of the star Gibson would become and after a tragic scene sends him running angrily down the road all I could think was “this guy even runs like a bad ass!” His toughness pours off the screen and his charm makes him entertaining to listen to in dialogue scenes.
The main antagonist of the film is Toecutter, which is really interesting as he is played by Hugh Keays-Byrne who also plays Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road, who leads the motorcycle gang. He’s a bit poetic and definitely has some similarities to Immortan Joe’s style of leadership by keeping his group loyal and crazy. I kept waiting for them to spray their mouths silver, but it didn’t happen.
The end of the film is full of great effects and solid action scenes. Max takes a bullet to the knee that looks very brutal and Gibson really sells the injured limb in a believable way. It’s a solid climax to a film and left me very much ready to watch the Road Warrior as soon as possible. I’ve heard that Road Warrior is the film that Miller wanted to make with Mad Max, but didn’t have the budget. The world Miller is able to create in his Mad Max films that I’ve seen is interesting and extremely compelling.
If you’re like me and never saw the original Mad Max I suggest you get a copy any way you can. It’s a good film that is definitely leading to a solid sequel and character that you want to win. Gibson’s performance is solid and definitely sells the crazy years before we would find out that he actually is. I give Mad Max 7 out of 10 interceptors!