Sunday, June 26, 2016

Mad Max (1979)


Some of the big holes in my movie watching experience are the Mad Max films. Honestly, I’ve only seen about 20 minutes of Beyond Thunderdome at a friends house. I just wasn’t terribly interested in dystopian science fiction when I was a kid, and it wasn’t until much later did I hear how insane The Road Warrior was supposed to be. I was finally able to see the first film in this franchise and I’ve got to be honest, it wasn’t what I was expecting.


Max (Mel Gibson) is part of a group of highway patrollers attempting to keep the highways in Australia safe. But marauding gangs of thugs are criss-crossing the country after an undisclosed crisis has brought the world to the brink.  During an extended chase with a particularly nasty madman, Max takes the killer out. He figures he should take some time off with his wife Jessie (Joanne Samuel) and their son.

Of course, the thug has friends, and they are lead by the ruthless Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne). The gang starts a campaign of harassment against the police, but Max and his pals think they can handle it. The dangers escalate and Max realizes that he may be in over his head and putting his family in jeopardy. Should he attempt to face Toecutter and his cronies, or make an escape with his wife? In the end Toecutter is going to face Mad Max and wish he had left well enough alone.

Good Points:

  • Some excellently staged chases and driving
  • Charged with intensity and unease
  • Creative sound and visuals add to the unique feel of the film
Bad Points:

  • I found the score to be very distracting
  • The plot is nothing terribly new
  • Thick accents and very loud music may make it hard to follow some of the dialogue.

Based on all the trailers for Fury Road and what I keep hearing about The Road Warrior I expected a massive action-fest. Instead I got a simple tale of a man fighting to stay sane in an insane world. Vengeance fuels the final ten minutes of the film, but the rest of the movie is the build to that climax. Miller does a fine job keeping the pacing brisk and the atmosphere of intensity rising and rising. The car chases are filmed very well, pulling you into the thrills. I enjoyed this grim film, but was expecting something a bit more fun.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 4
Acting: 4
Script: 3
Music: 2
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 4
Total:  4

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


  1. Like “Alien” or “Terminator,” “Mad Max” was a modestly budgeted film that spawned a big-budget blockbuster sequel. (The “Road Warrior” works despite the curious “boy meets girl, boy gradually wins over girl, boy ignores girl” element.) I can see how seeing the movies (or even just the trailers) in reverse order would mess with one’s expectations. “Beyond Thunderdome” is the weakest of the bunch and is an awkward place to start: not as bad a place as “Alien 3,” perhaps, but almost. I might have quit at 20 minutes too, were it my introduction to the franchise.

    1. Yeah, "Mad Max" was a solid movie with some great moments, especially considering the budget. Nice comparison to "Terminator" for sure.

      I don't even think we caught the first 20 minutes of "Beyond Thunderdome" it was some where in the middle of the movie. I didn't let it impact my desire to the other films, I was just wondering what Tina Turner was doing in the film. :)

  2. Yeah, I gotta admit I was a little disappointed with it too on the first viewing. That said I've grown to appreciate it with subsequent viewings. When I first saw it I thought, well, it's okay, but compared to 2001 or even the original Planet of the Apes, I thought they did a much better job. But then as Richard says, they had much bigger budgets.

    I rewatched it again before I saw Fury Road because I had read where the actor, Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played Toecutter had reprized his role in Fury Road as the head villain. He makes a good one too.

    There are scenes in Mad Max though that are classic along with all that carnage and high speed chases. One of them is when Max confronts one of the gang who has turned upside down in his car and is leaking gas on the road. I own all the Road Warrior films, and Mad Max may be my least favorite of all of them for now. But there are moments from all of them that I enjoy.

    1. Yeah that scene with the flipped car is classic. Mel does a great job with the intensity for sure. The final ten minutes are really handled well. I just think I was expecting wall to wall action and got a slow burn instead. Not a bad thing, just not quite what I expected.

  3. I saw MAD MAX at an impressionable age before THE ROAD WARRIOR and THUNDERDOME so it really affected me. The opening car chase is one of THE best ways to not only introduce the main character but the world he exists in - very memorable. Also, it introduced Miller's distinctive way of filming action scenes - that low to the ground camera angles and filming cars at such fast speeds (or doing it via camera speeds) really gives these sequences an immediate, visceral quality that can't be beat.

    I would say that the film does drag in bits between action sequences but it's never boring and does go a long way in building up the character of Max and believably creating an arc for how his character goes from loving family man to cold-blooded vengeance killer.

    1. Yeah that car chase was excellent. And on such a small budget... just damn impressive. But yeah this was more of a character piece building on itself to its climax. But from the title and the reputation I was just expecting a different movie. I need to give it another viewing some day. I'm sure my opinion will improve.