Friday, June 18, 2010

Movie Review: The Road Warrior

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

Australia, 1981

Genre: Action, Dystopia

95 minutes

Mel Gibson stars as Max, the Road Warrior, in his breakout hit. A desolate man in a desolate world, Max finds himself between a roaming community harboring a fuel tanker and a vicious street gang that wants it.

While not my usual fare when it comes to fight films, The Road Warrior is an interesting take on the classic Western story of a town in danger and the lone rider that comes to their aid. However, instead of a strong and silent guardian of the weak, Max is only out for his own interests, and is more dragged along by the circumstances as they unfold. Even as the action builds to the final climax, he is revealed to be just a pawn in a much grander scheme. It’s refreshing to see a character so completely human, taking the lumps as they come and just making the best decisions available at the time.

The Road Warrior, without a doubt, is a landmark in post-apocalyptic fiction. With fantastically bizarre characters and world design, director George Miller’s vision of a leather-punk dystopia straddles the line between the macabre and comical. The predecessor of countless imitators and parodies, nothing is like witnessing the original in its entirety. The film itself can be difficult to follow at times, as the limited dialogue and intense action sequences often leave the viewer to figure things out for themselves. Luckily, the story and actors are strong enough to make it fairly easy to pick up the pieces as they fall. There are a few hiccups in performance throughout the movie, but for the most part the actors know what situations call to be nuanced and when to be extravagant.

Like the name implies, the heart and soul of the film lies in the thrilling action sequences, almost all of which take place as high speed pursuits on the open road, set against a gorgeous desert in the Australian outback. Without CGI or blue screen effects, the impact of real crashes and real explosions can be felt in your very bones. Heart-pounding and hard hitting, the intensity of each scene only builds the movie higher and higher. Opening with small, isolated skirmishes at the start, the film moves onward and upward to a full-scale siege and a hell-or-highwater chase sequence in an armored Mack truck. Even thirty years after its release, it still holds up as a fast and furious action flick by today’s standards. Brutally fun, graphically intense, and energetically strange, it’s no wonder that The Road Warrior remains one of the best cult classics of all time.

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