Saturday, 31 January 2015

Mad Max 2 (1981)

Known as The Road Warrior in the US, this is the film which launched the Hollywood career of Mel Gibson.  I shall try not to hold that against it.

Whereas the original Mad Max - a film of which I'm not especially fond - showed a society undergoing a slow decline toward lawlessness, the second is firmly post-apocalyptic.  Resource scarcity led to a ferocious war that caused ever greater resource scarcity, until all the cities went dark and a reign of violence began.

We find ourselves in the Australian desert, where bandits in bondage gear pursue our leather-clad 'hero' down the highway.  A mixture of driving skill and guile allows Max to survive, though two of the bandits also escape with their lives.

After a subsequent encounter with a gangly, gawky owner of a gyrocopter - played by Bruce Spence, who is the greatest thing in this movie other than the stuntmen - Max learns of a nearby community which is still producing gasoline.  The only trouble is that it's surrounded by a whole horde of those bondage bandits I mentioned earlier - including the ones he tangled with earlier.

Max is a resourceful guy, though, and he's not about to let a little thing like that stop him.  He wants some of the gas these people are making.  He's willing to do a more or less honest deal for it, but he's not interested in risking his neck for any kind of altruistic reasons: he just wants fuel and then he'll be out of there.  Of course, things won't work out anywhere near as smoothly as he hopes, leading to a series of high speed car chases with action aplenty.

Now Mad Max 2 is not a flawless movie in the script department.  For instance, given that we're in the desert, and we see Max eating dog food to survive, it's a little odd that the subject of food and water never really comes up.  I would have expected that to be a more urgent need than fuel.  Second, given that fuel is the subject of all this conflict, it's conspicuous how profligate everyone is in its use.

Fortunately, it is pretty easy to overlook these flaws and just enjoy the action sequences and the colourful characters.  These are definitely the strengths of the film, and it commits to them full throttle.

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