Mad Max (1979)

(Release Date: April 12, 1979 [Australia])
(USA Release Date: May 09, 1980)

a fuel injected suicide machine!a fuel injected suicide machine!a fuel injected suicide machine!a fuel injected suicide machine!

They only made one mistake with Max...
They made him MAD!!!

J.C. Maçek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

The Terminator, Rambo, James Bond, Jason Bourne, Dirty Harry Callahan... action heroes all... tough guys all... and they all pale like a fading white dwarf when compared to the subject of our review tonight... MAD MAX ROCKATANSKY, The Main Force Patrol's top pursuit man, the last good cop of the dystopian future, the ultimate guardian in a losing battle between peaceful order and dark chaos. The MFP's BMF!
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Name: Max. Occupation: ASS KICKER!

A defining, apocalyptic Part of
Monster Man!
Operation: Sci-Fall Version 2010!

In the 30 plus years since we met our post-apocalyptic Anti-Hero, he's become a dusty legend, having defeated an army of insane marauders led by a masked madman and an entire town of greedy desert-dwellers! Looking back to his 1979 debut in the seminal Mad Max, it's hard to believe that the titular Max (as perfectly portrayed by the young Mel Gibson) had yet to lose it all and was, in fact, an honest cop at the edge of the apocalypse and also a good, devoted family man.

Yes, before this thrill-ride into the lungs of HELL begins, Max is the loving husband of Jessie (Joanne Samuel) and father to their infant son. While Max may not have yet gone MAD, the dying world around him, as represented by the dystopic landscape of the Australian Outback, most assuredly has.

When we join Max and his Enforcing Police and their Intrepid Interceptors, a maniacal motorcycle gang led by a proper psychopath named The Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne) are robbing, raping and pillaging everything from your suburban front doorstep to the Forbidden Territories! The proverbial excrement collides with the proverbial oscillator when one of the gang known as The Nightrider (Vince Gil) and his Girl (Lulu Pinkus) kill a cop and take his awesome ride. Things are going swimmingly until they run damned near SMACK DAB into Officer Rockatansky, the last angry face they see before they meet fucking SATAN, man!

It's safe to say it's not a good day to be a bad biker!

This, folks, is only the beginning! The Shit has ALREADY hit the FAN... and you still, most assuredly, ain't seen nothin' yet, fucker!

This is no vendetta for Max, however (at least not yet). The gang, on the other hand, take more than a little offense to the actions of Maxie-boy and his precinct of super-fast, super-tough and super-super cops like Jim Goose (Steve Bisley) and Captain Fifi Macaffee (Roger Ward)!

The only problem is, while Max, Fifi, Goose and the guys are much tougher, the Toecutter has more dudes! I'm talking about Mudguts (David Bracks), Cundalini (Paul Johnstone), Bubba Zanetti (Geoff Parry) and the vice-president in charge of lunacy, Johnny the Boy (Tim Burns)!

None of these assholes would you want to meet in a dark alley or a bright highway for that matter! Yes, it's safe to say they rule the roadways. Then again, there's such a thing as going too far... there's such a thing as an all-too-moveable gang of objects meeting up with that legendary UNSTOPPABLE FORCE! In short, while they took and took and took from MAD MAX... they will rue the day that they went one step too far and Max Rockatansky decided that it was high time to take it all back!

And good GOD does he ever give these guys what for! No, I'm not spoiling shit for you viewers who haven't experienced this maniac masterwork in low budget futuristic science fiction and lung-pumping action like nothing before or since! If this film doesn't pump you full of fur-prompting testosterone, regardless of your gender, baby, check your pulse, YOU MAY BE DEAD!!!

And just who do we owe this oft-imitated but never equalled minister of the sinister? Elementary, my dear Flotsam, creators Byron Kennedy and the chairman of the post-apocalyptic board, George Miller (who not only also directed, but co-wrote the screenplay with James McCausland)! And it... is... excellent!

It's hard to say exactly what makes this film so incredibly good. There are action films, including very good action films and then there are unique experiments in despair and desolation like Mad Max! From the amazing car chases to the uncanny thrills to the rapid-fire fight scenes to the shocking turns of events, no punches are pulled from page to screen with this first mindblowing-movie. It could be the low-budget and corner-cutting that led to this fast-forwarded yet still brilliant story, it could be George Fucking Miller's real-life experience as a Medical Doctor in Australian Emergency Rooms that led to the realistic and horrifying depiction of injuries here, it could be the fuel crisis of the 1970s that provided the backdrop for this bleak future... whatever it is, Mad Max is a winner of a movie and Mad Max is a winner of a character!!!

But what is it that makes Mad Max himself such an enduring Action Hero? Because he's invincible and invulnerable? On the contrary, Max is definitely that one, good, tough cop that legends are built around and there are purely iconic things that radiate from every bit of him. In spite of this, Max is so great because of his vulnerability. He is vexed and vinced by the horrors of his surroundings and the shock and loss he experiences is what turns him into the terminal psychotic with a Bronze Badge that we see in the following two (to date) films. Max wins the war(s) but loses a few battles along the way. Or perhaps he wins several battles but the war itself is unwinnable. Regardless, what we know for sure is that Max leaves a good deal of his own blood behind... and the weight of that statement means more than just one thing.

Mad Max may not be perfect and the seams in this work of art definitely show through due to its lower budget and tight schedule. However, this Australian independent film (originally released in the USA by American International Pictures of all companies) became much more than just the throw-away import that it might have been and became a true classic of Sci-Fi action and an acclaimed drama to boot. This might have been a very different film without the excellent work of lead actor Mel Gibson or the intelligent and fast-paced direction of George Miller. Both have become huge names since this small movie (shot for less than $350,000), but both more than show their potential in this film... while sequels Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (not to mention the next installment Mad Max 4: Fury Road) have pushed the boundaries of the genre and have helped to create a legend, the original Mad Max is the indispensible thriller that defined an entire category of Science Fiction!

Four Stars out of Five for Mad Max, the amazing independent Australian Sci-Fi Action Thriller that became nothing less than the greatest film of its kind. When the Not-Too-Distant-Future does arrive... you'd better hope that he's on your side because Mad Max is one man you don't want to piss off. I'll see you, and him, in the next reel, action-thrill junkies!

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Mad Max (1979)
Reviewed by J.C. Maçek III
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