Been a bit slow on the reviews recently. Apologies for that. Been away and had all sorts of video related Youtubey stuff taking up my time. That said, I did purchase 3 films with the intent of getting some actual interesting films to review on here. The first was Terminator 2, which I reviewed a couple of weeks back before this slight hiatus. Today it’s the second film in the form of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. If you’ve been reading this site for a while you’ll probably know that I’m a bit of a nerd for Mad Max films. After this one I’ll only have Beyond Thunderdome left to cover, which I hope to get done before that Mad Max game is released next week. So, let’s get on with it shall we?
If you were to watch the original Mad Max and follow it directly with this you may be a little shell-shocked. The first film hints and nods at a world in ruin. There’s anarchy for sure but the world is, mostly, still holding itself together. The Road Warrior skips a number of years and fills the shift in the world’s status with a few wars over resources and an apocalyptic level of nuclear bomb throwing. The water is drying up. Owning fuel is power and the lawless bandits of the Australia will do anything and harm anyone that gets in their way, or happens to be nearby, as they aim to get as much fuel as they can. One makeshift refinery town currently has a large source of petrol, usually referred to as guzzoline in the Mad Max world, and a gang of powerful bandits led by the S&M fan Lord Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) intend to take it. Humungus is a fair lord though. He gives them a day to get out of the refinery first, probably counting on them staying so he may have a little more fun in the takeover.
It’s around this point that Max (Mel Gibson) arrives in the town. He’s had an encounter with Humungus’ men and seen what they do to innocent people. He offers to go collect a truck capable of pulling the petrol reserves from the town in exchange for his Interceptor to be returned, as it is currently impounded by the towns leader Pappagallo (Michael Preston) who’s a little unsure of Max’s trustworthiness. This film essentially sets up the premise for all future Max films. That being a tale of a lone wanderer, a broken shell of a man, that helps a group of people in need. He doesn’t want to get involved knowing that death follows him through the wasteland, but eventually he does. When his work is done he’ll walk away to be alone again. In essence the Mad Max films are like post-apocalyptic Conan The Barbarian stories, all told as tales from around the campfire.
Cinematically this was, until Fury Road, George Miller’s most frantic and kinetic action flick. The chase sequences are shot with a wilful abandon for what we’d probably want to consider safe. Apparently, for one big stunt, they had the stuntman not eat for 24 hours prior in case he had to be rushed to hospital for surgery. There’s another stunt that was actually and accident, resulting in a visibly broken leg. But the shot looked far too awesome to not use. Reckless though this stunt-work may seem, it’s entirely part of the Ozploitation style that still runs through The Road Warrior. They just did this sort of thing all the time. The film’s finale is a 13 minute long multi-car chase that became the standard for this sort of sequence at the time. It’s influence is huge, most noticeable, I’d say, in Tarantino’s Death Proof which utilised a lot of the same shooting techniques and mimicked the energy almost exactly.
Alongside all that violent car chase action is some brilliantly shot and paced scenery and a real adherence to the show don’t tell method of cinema. A method that more directors could really learn to use. Max says almost nothing through the whole film. He has somewhere around 16 lines of dialogue and I’m pretty sure he says nothing for the last 20 minutes. There’s no rush to the pacing of the edits, unless warranted for a moment at hand. Miscellaneous characters are given small moments to help define who they are. These characters are also a nice varied mix that break away from the usual slot filling roles a lot of action movies have. Not many action flicks has a feral child throwing a bladed boomerang around, for example. Events are established and foreshadowed with subtlety and style. Add that to the pretty damn hopelessness of the wasteland itself and you have one of the legitimate great films of the 80s. There’s flaws all over the place sure, continuity errors and the like, but it’s the roughness of it all that helps sell the world as being the total scrappy mess that it is.
Mad Max: The Road Warrior is pretty much a masterpiece of 80s action cinema. It took a simple foundation laid out by the original film and extrapolated events into a new world that formed the basis for not just the following films, but for a whole ton of imitators. Fist of the North Star is not only based massively on Mad Max but is even filled with scenarios and characters ripped from this film. Salute To The Jugger being another clearly influenced work. Even the wrestling tag team the Legion of Doom often went under the name The Road Warriors with a look inspired by this very film. Fury Road even took the visual of the final chase sequence and based the entire film around it. So yeah… The Road Warrior is a superb film. On to Beyond Thunderdome I guess.