Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior)

Year: 1981

Production: Mad Max Pty.

Director: George Miller

Starring: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Emil Minty, Mike Preston, Kjell Nilsson

Screenwriter: Terry Hayes, George Miller, Brian Hannant

96 minutes; Color


The success of the first film in this series, Mad Max (1979), generated a bigger budget for this, the second. It was well used, and this is a more sophisticated film, more purely sf than its predecessor. The oil wars have left a devastated world; petrol is a medium of exchange, and its conspicuous use - by burning it up on the roads - confers status. Ex-policeman Max Rockatansky (Gibson) gives reluctant assistance to a semicivilized group in a desert fortress. Possessing a valuable petrol supply, they are beleaguered by a tribe of marauders (who, in this Western replay, are effectively Indians), designer-barbarians in fetishistic gear on motorbikes and vehicles of war. Made with poker-faced humor, and this time with the US prints allowed to retain Mel Gibson's Australian drawl, the film is enlivened by small details - e.g., the Feral Kid (Minty) with his razor-sharp metal boomerang - and has much to recommend it beyond the tautly directed scenes of vehicular warfare. Poignant use is made of memories when times were better. The name of the sleazy real-world coastal resort Surfer's Paradise is now only half-remembered, as "Paradise", and ironically the place becomes the Promised Land to which the civilized remnant (minus the loner, Max) finally treks. With all its comic-strip energy and vividness, this is exploitation cinema at its most inventive.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

The most influential genre movie of recent years - at least in terms of the number of cheap rip-offs that over-invest in replicating its spare narrative form while (in)conveniently ignoring the consummate skill with which Miller animates its cockeyed mythological resonances - Mad Max 2 defines itself modestly enough as an exploitation feature by sheer dint of admitting to its sequal status. This is one sequal (to Mad Max) that outstrips its fine model in every sense, though. Embittered one-time cop Gibson, having survived his past ordeals, now finds himself at the center of a post-holocaust western, being gradually persuaded to ride to the aid of a beleaguered circle of civilization under siege and attack by savage hordes. Since World War II, petrol has become the golden commodity in a skeletal society still slavishly attached to its automobile culture - a culture which has been subjected to exotic fetishism, by the barbarian bikers at any rate. Gibson's the man to run the last tanker convoy past their blockade, if only he'll commit himself to the cause and avail himself of the unconventional assistance proffered by Spence's eccentric autogyro pilot and Minty's triumphantly un-moppet-like Feral Kid.

The inventive characterizations and vivid caricatures meet in superb cross-genre, comic-strip combat, with Miller cutting brilliantly throughout on grotesquely incisive action and near-parodic ultra-violence, his stunt team performing wonders with scenes of high-speed homicide, Brain May's score pacing the mayhem to a heightened pulse-rate, and the Australian desert providing the most convincing post-apocalyptic landscape imaginable. A neatly ironic coda draws nothing so mundane as a moral, only applause for a movie scaled perfectly to its means, and for one that most definitely, breathtakingly, moves.

The Overlook Film Encyclopedia - Science Fiction

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