Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mad Max (1979)

By Eric Jessen 7/16/09

Mad Max presents a new world for action, a post apocalypse kind of wild west with open roads instead of frontier, with motorcycles and souped-up cars instead of horses, but limits itself to the same action movie conventions.
There are chase scenes, chase scenes and more chase scenes. There is a bike riding gang of villains who terrorize for absolutely no reason. They howl and scream and look like idiots. They make you hate them, not because they're evil but because they're so stupid. They are only one step above the villains from the Death Wish movies. Their unbearable unintelligent behavior makes their inevitable death very sweet, but the ride long and frustrating.
In Mad Max there is also a girl, attractive, obviously, who finds any chance she can to go wondering off by herself. Doesn't she know every attractive women in an action movie is vulnerable, helpless and perfect bait for villains? She goes for a stroll in the woods, on the beach, to the ice cream store and every time we hear the roar of the motorcycle gang's exhaust. It's predictable but makes for great suspense.
Oh yeah, and there's a hero, Max (Mel Gibson). He is apparently a police officer, but in this world the difference between an officer and a criminal is only in the uniform (sound familiar like almost every western ever made). At first Max just goes about his business: arresting and pursuing the bad guys. But once his best friend is burned to a crisp by the motorcycle gang, and his precious wife and child have been terrorized, he turns “Mad” and goes on a killing rampage.
You see, in action movies if the hero kills the villains when all they've done is menace other villains, innocent men, old people, or ugly women then that's uncalled for. But if villains hurt wives, children or attractive women, then our hero has free rein to torture them.
Mad Max is action for action's sake and there's nothing wrong with that. It's entertaining when the guys hit the open road and leave the story, dialogue and women back home. It needs smarter villains, and either a stronger story and better dialogue or heck, how about none at all? But this action movie has got a strong base: style, an exotic setting (Australia), some cool chase scenes and some relatively creative deaths. It's a perfect foundation for a sequel, or two.

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