Archive Review: Mad Max (1979) – 1.5/5 Stars

If you read the plot summary for “Mad Max,” you’ve just ruined the first 1 hour and 10 minutes of the film. You’ve also found out that “Mad Max” takes place in post-apocalyptic Australia, which will be helpful because otherwise you won’t have any idea what’s going on. The film, made in 1979, tries really hard to be Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” (1971) only that film, in all its strangeness, actually makes sense and leaves an impact. This film does neither and ends up being a car/bike stunt-filled romp that crashes like every vehicle in the film does.

The first thing wrong with “Mad Max” is that it tries to sell itself as a revenge tale when no vigilante appears to take revenge until the final 20 minutes. If the first hour were condensed to 20-30 minutes and then the final 20 added on and then another hour added after that, “Mad Max would be a cool action film with a great vigilante protagonist. Instead, Mel Gibson has to wait around and act like a sissy for 2/3 of the film and then have a sudden epiphany to seek revenge. I’ve yet to watch the sequel “Road Warrior” and I have to admit I’m excited for it only because I want to know what he does next. This first film was mostly a waste of time.

George Miller does some great action stuff here, but his over-the-top symbolism is absurd and the unbearable cheesy reaction sequences every time a character discovers something horrifying like a burnt hand or what have you completely ruins those moments. Its a terribly cliché B-movie technique.

There is absolutely no thematic value or subtle critique of society in this film no matter what you might think. A great action sci-fi movie at least makes a point, but the gratuitous violence done by random, weird bikers doesn’t say anything of value. Even the villain Toecutter feels modeled off Alex of “Clockwork” only uglier and completely unimposing. The PG violence just does not allow the violence of this gang to settle in and get a reaction from the viewer, it just cheeses it up if anything.

I’ll give credit for the amount of stuff the film crew blew up and crashed into things and Miller does a great job making you feel the intensity of the collisions. Everything else is mediocre at best and then after an hour of mediocrity, you get something good and the film ends 20 minutes later. I’m just crossing my fingers “Road Warrior” will fulfill the expectations of where this film ends, otherwise that’s more time wasted.

1.5/5 stars

“Mad Max” (1979)

Directed by: George Miller

Written by: George Miller, Byron Kennedy, James McCausland

Starring: Mel Gibson


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