Road Warrior, The (Mad Max 2)

Mel Gibson

Bruce Spence

reviewed by Tom-Tom

starstarstarstar

 

The first 5 minutes of Mad Max 2 tell you all you need to know about about the last film, and to be honest, all you need to see, really. The hard, crisp Down Under accent intones the back story to the world all live in which we didn’t get in Mad Max 1. Mel Gibson looks the part of a badass now and with the bigger budget, the landscape, characters, costumes all have more of a worn in, natural, and clear look to them. Max’s only companion is a mangy dog who roams free inside his battered car which he stole from the Main (police)  Force’s car pool. We’re ready to believe this is going to be an awesome movie. Fuel is scarce and we see our hero panning gasoline from a car wreck with grimy mismatched plates. Dystopian wasteland, check! Thankfully, everyone is speaking with native Australian accents rather than the unnatural dubbed American ones of the US released first film The music is a bit more tame and appropriate this time. Max no longer gets all wide-eyed at dead bodies burnt or otherwise. He doesn’t even shy at a snake or a rape, for that matter. All he cares about is gasoline and survival.

Max makes his way to a gated community. No, not a suburb, but a town circled by tires and populated by white clothed Elven-like folk and dirty little mute Neanderthaloid urchins wielding razor edged boomerangs among other things. A motley posse of bondage metal clad punks arrives hints at different gangs and cultures that have come together. A metal masked muscular monolith of a man leads the cadre. He is even introduced by an underling in a manner fitting a king or a professional wrestler. Tressed up bodies of captives are strewn across cars and strapped to fenders. The town is not without defense and immediately archers and flame throwers are at the ready. Seeing the cadre encircle the small community gives a very clear sense of how claustrophobic daily life is in dystopia. There is no decided protocol and the aforementioned urchin tests his/her/its boomerang on the forehead and fingers of some of those assembled catching it with a chain-link glove. No one really pays the fallen any mind save to snicker at the newly fingerless chump.

The movie has very clearly established the time and place and mindset. This place is hell and all one can do is to survive as long as possible. The costumes are really well designed not just rags and eyeliner in the trim budgeted first flick but mohawks, secondary weapon holsters, stolen cop uniforms, hockey masks, animal furs. We have no doubt in our mind that this is a forsaken land (Australia). Max makes a deal to get a vehicle big enough for the town’s golden goose: i.e. gas and lots of it and sets off with his dog and a Gyrocopter pilot (played by Bruce Spence) he has under his control. The Gyro Captain provides the only humor we’re likely to get in this picture. He really looks as if he were born in a post-apocalyptic wasteland (New Zealand). Max starts his daring chase pursued on all sides by racer punks of the cadre. An all-out assault on the town begins with some of the miscreants making it inside. It’s a desperate battle as only survivors can wage.

What follows is a daring chase and evolution of character for Max as unable to take the easy way out, he is left with the only option available. The ensuing chase is a master class in suspense and editing. Both sides have qualified their skills. What remains is merely to see them all go at it with their all. I found myself as giddily excited as when I first saw the attack on the Death Star Trench in “A New Hope.” There are no toy plastic models going foom here. Just high speed stunts with the future of real people at stake. In dystopia, bullets are a luxury so arrows are the currency of long range warfare. The enemies here aren’t goofy or indulgent of the hero. They are freakin’ relentless and creative. They creep, crawl, leap, shoot, scratch, mace, hack, cut, tear, and chase, chase, chase until the bitter end. This variation makes every moment fresh and keeps us on the edge of our seats. The cinematic sleight of hand at the film’s completion is more satisfying than anything M. Night Shyamalan has ever cooked up (which isn’t saying much). Even if you know nothing of the Mad Max Franchise, this is a perfect standalone film with great acting, action, stunts, chasing, and super cool post apocalyptic digs you can easily step into without any prior knowledge. It is finely edited down to the bone and any chase scene anywhere has much to learn from director/screenwriter George Miller.

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