Mad Max (1979) (R)
Set in the not too distant future, "Mad Max" employs a liberal amount of car chases and crazy psychopaths to ensure you get the point—don't. freakin'. mess. with. Mel. Gibson.
Naturally, the plot is much more sophisticated than that and the style verges on surrealist on more than one occasion; but that's what it all boils down to if you're looking in with a severely critical gaze. What you don't see then is the fact that "Mad Max" is a terrifically entertaining.
The movie begins with a riveting car chase between a crazy dude who calls himself Nightrider" and the law. These cops are super cool and not to be trifled with. They all wear leather, ride fast, and live dangerously. But this guy they are chasing has them topped on the insane factor by at least ten. So our title character is called in to stop the man...and he does...because he's the title character.
Max is played by Mel Gibson who turns in an average performance for an average character. Whether you like him or not, you can't deny that Gibson is extremely talented; but this isn't one of his stronger performances.
So Nightrider gets it right in the fender...and that's putting it nicely. To be more technical, there's not much of him left for an autopsy.
Enter a group of bikers, and you know their bad because of the screech-fest of violins accompanying their arrival and the fact that they're bikers. These men are hell-bent on revenge for Nightrider's death; but they don't really know who killed him. They seem more interested in hunting down one of the Max's co-officers, a man named Goose.
The biker rebel group is led by Supreme Crazy-Man, who calls himself "Toecutter".
Really? That's what you're going with?
Besides having a terrible name, Toecutter depends on the allegiance of his men who all seem way too happy to sign their life away to a lunatic. I'm harping on the insane thing, but that's because every person in "Mad Max" is pretty crazy.
For being not as creepy as he should have been "Mad Max" earns minus points for a bad villain—here the problem is clearly seen.
The movie doesn't have a great villain, doesn't have a great hero, and doesn't have a good plot. Essentially we are just given two characters who hate each other so that we can zoom from one epic chase scene to the next. The stunts are amazing and elevate the movie from "somewhat-entertaining-drivel" to "wow-that's-cool".
I liked how "Mad Max" looked, it was almost like "Brazil" in the way that it was unapologetic about its style and it seemed to tip over into a genre by itself on many occasions.
Most people view this film as a revenge movie; but I don't. It's not until nearly the end that Max goes on a rampage of revenge...the rest of the time is him trying to evade the coming onslaught of bikers and death—holding his family close, oblivious to the peril that faces him.
The motivations are weak, the acting is so-so.
But "Mad Max" gives way to incredible action. It's unadulterated and spine-tingling good.
There's not much to be said about the movie...it's a great lot of fun and—in the end—it's quite shallow.
Score: 3 out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones