Mad Max is a film that spawned a new genre of post-apocalyptic sci-fi movies and the career of Mel Gibson. This movie also gave birth to three sequels and a variety of spinoffs. Its been years since I first learned of this franchise, but it took me awhile to actually get around into seeing these movies. I have now seen this movie twice. The first time, I did not really like the film. While still an imperfect film, I appreciated the film much more. The story isn’t spectacular-it’s a just a road trip action/thriller with Mel Gibson killing all the bad guys who get in his way, but the characters are what make this movie work.
So Mel Gibson plays a man named Max, a cop in the wastelands of post-apocalyptic Australia. To say Max is a savage cop to those who undermine him is like saying I only merely like watching movies. This man is ruthless when it comes to his career, but what makes Max a bigger character is the other side of himself. He is a happy family man with a loving life and child and they mean the world to him. But his world crashes down on him when a family tragedy occurs thanks to the work of a vicious motorcycle gang led by a dude named “The Toecutter” (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Then the story turns into a revenge movie and a rather good one at that.
This movie starred Mel Gibson before he was a well-known movie superstar. This was only a small Aussie film and at the time, Gibson was only known in his Australian continent and then just barely as he was new to acting. But you can see why he blossomed into such a loveable (for a time) movie star. He added the emotional gravitas that his character needed. Gibson made Max his own and he really kicked ass when it came down to it.
One thing you have to understand about the movie is how utterly violent it can be. You wouldn’t expect this much violence to be in a 1980 film, but give credit to George Miller because he did not hold anything back. From the opening chase sequence to witnessing the harsh actions of The Toecutter and his gang, it can be hard to watch. But the action is built for high-octane action, raw power, and insane speed. That is really all we want in a film like this.
My biggest issue with the film is how outdated it can get. This film was released in 1979 overseas and 1980 here in the States, so it’s an older film obviously. But sometimes I was jolted away from the film thanks to the old-fashioned costuming and hairstyles. The cinematography is fine for when it came out, but it really does not hold up too well and it can be distracting when there are not any high-speed chases going on.
I thought Mad Max was a thoroughly fun film. I viewed the film as an experiment and it works very well in that regard. After all, it came out with three sequels and dozens of similar sci-fi films. Even though the film is filled to the brim with brutal violence and crazy action scenes, it really works because of the emotional themes at its core about family. That really made Max the hero worth watching. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough for the low-budget unknown film it was at first.
My Grade: B