Mad Max (1979) 4.43/5 (5)


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Rating: The Good – 85.8
Genre: Action, Science Fiction
Duration: 88 mins
Director: George Miller
Stars: Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne

The movie that raised the stakes on all car-chase films by giving us one visceral and frenetic chase after another on the open roads of a futuristic Australian outback. Mel Gibson has never been better as the rogue cop who ultimately takes to the road in his bloody pursuit of revenge against the marauding motorcycle gang who made the mistake of making things personal. Hugh Keays-Byrne is the wonderfully deranged leader of that gang (Toecutter) and he provides one of science fiction’s more memorable and interesting bad-guys.

The original of the franchise is not as relentless as the second in terms of its pace and savagery but it is more subtly disturbing in how it portrays the breakdown of law and order. In fact there are few post-apocalyptic movies that have matched writer/director George Miller and co-writer James McCausland’s startlingly obtuse conception of the future. The mannerisms and dialogue of the nomadic bikers, the tattered remnants of the legal system, and the breathless momentum of the action all combine to give one an utterly gripping sense of a post-apocalyptic world.

But it’s how all this is tied to what we would recognise as the modern world which makes it feel so authentic and disturbing. On top of that, Miller quite cleverly juxtaposes the chaos of the roads with the sanity and calm of Max’s family life and consequently roots Max (and the subsequent more frenetic world of the sequels) in an all too credible world. It may burn a lot slower than those sequels but Mad Max never disappoints because, once it gets going, it doesn’t stop as Max races 150mph straight into The Road Warrior.

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