Mad Max: A no Nostalgia Review

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Mad Max is a rather hard film to talk about without bringing up the conditions it was made under. The movie had a reported budget of about three hundred thousand dollars. Today, that's still only about one million with inflation. Unwatchable, found footage horror schlock that plagues our theaters today costs more to make then that and this was a full fledged action movie. It was the movie that introduced both George Miller (Happy Feet, Babe) and Mel Gibson (Oh Mel Gibson. I wish you didn't lose your mind) to the general public. Now does it actually hold up as a movie? Well that's a bit complicated.

I just want to get this out of the way right now. The action scenes are astoundingly well shot. The shots are close to or inside of the cars so you always feel like you're in the action and the shots vary greatly without the choppy editing of the average Michael Bay film. While the action is very simple and silly in some places it manages to be involving. The remastered DVD I watched fixed the video quality which made them darn near perfect. However, sometimes the average day to day things are shot in an awkward, uninteresting way that makes the film feel kind of uneven.

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The movie has a rather interesting setting and tone. Australia's society is collapsing rapidly. Gangs are let loose upon the streets. These men have become animals raping and pillaging all in their wake. The police force is small and understaffed. The police station almost looks abandoned. The people don't believe in heroes anymore. The morality of this film is very black and grey. The bad guys are how I described them earlier and the good guys are hotheads, stalkers, extremely aggressive, apathetic to others, take no prisoners and are in general on the verge of villain territory (Max's best friend Goose laughs while telling a story about a guy who got his face ripped off and could do nothing, but try to scream and he tells this story casually while eating eggs with someone) Well except for Max. Max is the closest thing there is to a good person in this film (Excluding bystanders). However, the horrors of the world around him are slowly changing him. The movie plays this a significantly more subtly then the average movie. The first sign you get of this is early on. A criminal is rushing down the road and Max is coming in his direction, but the weird thing is that the psycho Max is chasing swerves first. The murderous lunatic who calls himself, "The Nightrider" while taunting the police swerves before the guy with a family to worry about. Just think about that.

Mel Gibson plays Max well, but his acting is still a product of the time. Sometimes he does really over the top reaction shots, that out of context seem silly as apposed to tragic, but I was generally too busy being in the moment to notice until I sat down to actually critique this thing. Steve Bisley captures his hotheaded, apathetic character that only seems decent in comparison to every one of the other supporting characters. Hugh Keays-Byrne plays the primary antagonist of the film who is sort of an extremely charismatic psycho. He isn't exactly subtle, but Hugh does play him well enough. The rest of the actors are average or pretty enjoyably hammy.

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This movie also has some out of place weirdness in it. The crazy old lady and her son with down syndrome are pretty out of place. They serve only to be an awkward plot device and a jump scare respectively. George Miller seems to have a strange love for scenes where people eyes bug out of their head before they die like they're a murderous Loony Toon.

In the end Mad Max is a very good action film that would have been a flat out masterpiece with smoother editing, a better supporting cast, and less off putting weirdness. I heartily recommend it to any action movie fan.

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Nice review. Personally I liked the acting a little more than you did, but that's probably because you spend enough time with the characters to really care about what happens to them. The result of the film's low budget is that it looks personal and relate-able, not cheap. Two things about this film are very rare and refreshing these days:

1) You will feel every punch, a product of reasonable editing and thing #2:

2) You will feel emotions. Now you're saying, "From a movie? Look, I've seen a lot of Michael Bay films and I never..."Stop. Trust me on this.

And for the record, if anyone tries to spoil the film for you, do something terrible to them. There's no big twist or anything, but there is such a thing as 'suspense'.

EDIT: Oh yea, and you're right about the guy with down syndrome. Weirdest fucking thing, though I don't think it hurts the film really. It does add creepiness and suspense. So, there's that.

Rooster Cogburn:
Nice review. Personally I liked the acting a little more than you did, but that's probably because you spend enough time with the characters to really care about what happens to them. The result of the film's low budget is that it looks personal and relate-able, not cheap. Two things about this film are very rare and refreshing these days:

1) You will feel every punch, a product of reasonable editing and thing #2:

2) You will feel emotions. Now you're saying, "From a movie? Look, I've seen a lot of Michael Bay films and I never..."Stop. Trust me on this.

And for the record, if anyone tries to spoil the film for you, do something terrible to them. There's no big twist or anything, but there is such a thing as 'suspense'.

EDIT: Oh yea, and you're right about the guy with down syndrome. Weirdest fucking thing, though I don't think it hurts the film really. It does add creepiness and suspense. So, there's that.

You do really feel every punch and blow. Which is a reason why I love the action scenes so much. Also it pisses me off that the IMDB description spoils the plot. Like you said it doesn't have any twists but suspense is a major part of a good action film. Thanks for the intelligent comment. Glad you liked the review.

I think one of the things I liked about this movie was Toecutter himself and how creepy yet charismatic he was. I thought Hugh Keays-Byrne did a fantastic job portraying the character and delivered his lines perfectly.

Will we be seeing a review of The Road Warrior? I think the first film is probably better looking back all these years later but that's my favourite of the films. The third is pretty much trash.

WolfThomas:
Will we be seeing a review of The Road Warrior? I think the first film is probably better looking back all these years later but that's my favourite of the films. The third is pretty much trash.

Yeah, i will be putting up a Road warrior review in a day or two. Then a Beyond Thunderdome one a few days after that.

 

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