Review: Mad Max (1979)

Mad Max (1979)

Directed by: George Miller | 93 minutes | action, drama, horror, adventure, science fiction | Actors: Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Steve Bisley, Tim Burns, Roger Ward, Lisa Aldenhoven, David Bracks, Bertrand Cadart, David Cameron, Robina Chaffey, Stephen Clark, Mathew Constantine, Jerry Day, Reg Evans

Despite the fact that Mel Gibson was born in America, his career started in Australia. His father decided to emigrate to Australia with the whole family, eleven children in total, in 1968 after winning a lot of money in a TV quiz. One of the reasons for emigrating was that he didn’t want his sons sent into the Vietnam War. Mel Gibson attended university in Sydney and acted in TV shows until he was offered the part of Mad Max. The film became his breakthrough and made him what he still is in 2006: an international superstar.

In this low-budget cult classic, he plays Max Rockatansky, a cop who has to protect citizens in a post-apocalyptic world against the many scum that make the roads unsafe. Every day he sets out in his fast car, sometimes assisted by his comrade Goose, to patrol and watch the roads. Not entirely superfluous because there is a motorcycle gang that operates under the leadership of the maniacal Toecutter. The gang leaves a trail of violence and destruction and the agents, led by Max, go after them. Max kills their leader, the “Nightrider” and the gang vows revenge and starts taking victims; first Max’s colleague and friend Goose and then Max’s wife and son. After this happens, the righteous cop Max Rockatansky turns into the sadistic killer Mad Max who won’t rest until Toecutter and his rabble are dead and buried.

Mel Gibson claims to be a peace-loving, God-fearing person. Well, whether that’s really true, you can argue about that, but the fact is that he’s never played in mindless action movies, where violence is used purely for the sake of violence. In ‘Braveheart’ he does want to fight against the English, but only when his wife’s throat is cut does he swear revenge and turn into a murderous savage. In the ‘Lethal Weapon’ films, he plays a cop who needs all the violence to solve the cases. In other words, in Gibson’s eyes, extreme violence and sadism is allowed if it can be justified. A deprived lover, a kidnapped son, these are legitimate reasons for carrying out fierce acts of revenge.

‘Mad Max’ is a dark movie. It paints an unpleasant picture of the near future. The film is set in a desolate landscape that clearly must represent an area after a nuclear war, here anarchism reigns supreme, a jungle in which the law of the strongest and the fastest clearly applies. Only a few people survived the apocalypse and this is made clear by the many shots of the long, straight roads that cut stripes through the desolate Australian landscape. There is nothing to see, there is not a living soul to be seen, which evokes a fearful and ominous feeling. All that can be seen and heard is the car of Mad Max, the lone warrior, an iconic anti-hero who will not rest until the vendetta against those who killed him inside is over.

The film evokes a sinister atmosphere, which is enhanced by the desolate landscape, the half-destroyed buildings and the few bizarre figures who live in this area forgotten by God. The many spectacular chases, often filmed in unusual ways, with cameras filming the cars from low angles, make ‘Mad Max’ an impressive film.

‘Mad Max’ got two more sequels; ‘The Road Warrior’ and ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome’ (which is a lot less than the first two parts), starring Tina Turner and although this was Gibson’s first major film, his role in this cult classic remains an absolute highlight of his career.

Comments are closed.