Mad Max 2 - The Road Warrior

Mad Max 2 is a movie I must have seen, I don't know, over a hundred times. And even that maybe too modest an estimate. Okay, let's just say I have seen it more times than I can remember.

It is the ultimate in post-apocalyptic science fiction offering a unique blend of naturalistic setting, neck-breaking head-spinning action sequences, and terribly bleak and disturbingly plausible vision of mankind's future.

Review by SAndman
May 24, 2009

Mad Max 2 Movie

Director: George Miller

Terry Hayes, George Miller and Brian Hannant

Mel Gibson as Mad Max
Bruce Spence as The Gyro Captain
Michael Preston as Pappagallo
Kjell Nilsson as The Humungus
Emil Minty as The Feral Kid
Virginia Hey as Warrior Woman

Released: 1981

Mad Max: I'm just here for the gasoline.

On the face of it, Mad Max 2 is a story of a classic antihero, ex-cop Max Rockatansky, who plays cat and mouse with a gang of vicious and deranged biker thugs, led by a masked guy named Lord Humungus, somewhere in the boonies of a post-technological and post-apocalyptic world.

This is a world of deserted highways running through miles and miles of empty desert landscape, dotted with the odd car-wreck and rotting animal or human corpse. This is a future in which the technological glory of the past became the stuff of legend or the precious commodity accessible to the most resourceful and the strongest. Nowhere is this more true than in the case of fuel. For, above all, this is the world which has run out of gas, and is now desperately vying to get at the last remaining drops.

This vision of a hardscrabble future has never failed to strike a deep cord with me. I suppose the pessimist in me has always thought this a much more likely scenario than the future of sleek space ships zipping along and pushing back the boundaries of space. Dirt instead of the stars, clunky rusting engines instead of the hyper-drive. Maniacs on bikes instead of pesky aliens. (The maniacs on bikes beat the pesky aliens hands down! Personally, I would rather confront a dozen edgy xenomorphs than the psychotic Wez!!!)

Another thing that has never failed to blow me away ever since I first saw the movie was the sheer brutality of violence. Few movies show violence for what it is - gruesome, dehumanizing and absolutely terrifying.

There are unprecedented moments of mayhem in the movie, such as the now classic scenes of car chase, followed by gut-wrenching sequences of torture, rape, killing. Men are shot, stabbed, clubbed, beaten, crushed under the wheels of car, set on fire. And yet for all this, the violence in the movie never seems gratuitous. It merely sets the scene and drives the story along. Unlike many such movies, Mad Max 2 never comes across as fetishistic and "flashy" in its portrayal of human cruelty.

Many movies depict descent into barbarism and savagery, but few do it so vividly and uncompromisingly. I can think of few on-screen examples of such blatant bestiality as is the case of the bikers' gang. The characters like Wez, or Lord Humungus, encapsulate the worst and most disturbing impulses of human nature.

On the other hand, you have such sterling examples of heroism in the movie in the characters such as the indomitable Pappagallo, or the stoic Warrior Woman, or the flamboyant The Gyro Captain, or the fiercely loyal Feral Kid. The last is perhaps the most interesting. He is the only human being who seems to bond with the damaged Max. Who can tell his story?

There are no flashbacks in Mad Max 2. The characters are fleshed out in the few scanty lines of dialog but mostly they are defined by their actions. Few movies are so grounded in the present moment, in the furious now of action-packed sequences, as Mad Max 2.

On top of it, you have the irresistible loner, "the shell of a man", "a man haunted by the demons of his past". The damaged hero who walks the fine line between right and wrong. You cannot but fall in love with such a guy. I certainly did, and then did it again, and again.

I believe there are some movies and books that you have to discover at just the right time. Or you likely never will. The experience is nothing short of a miracle. And no critic, teacher, parent or friend can tell you that you are wrong. For me the miracle happened with Mad Max 2 back in the Ice Age of my childhood.

The first time I watched it I got sucked right into it. And despite all the brutalities, and despite getting the creeps every time I watched Wez and Humungus on a rampage (or perhaps because of it), I returned to it over and over again. I was forever infected with that forbidding world of depraved thugs and violence. And the image of Max standing alone amongst wreckage on that lonely desert road swept by wind and sand never ceased to stir my imagination.

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