Mad Max

500 Movie Challenge: Mad Max

Mad MaxI share a common characteristic with much of my guys friends: I’m a sucker for a good road movie. As in not just a good road trip movie. A good road movie. Something gritty, that brings to mind images of rough-and-tumble isolation. If you get lost, you’re on your own. If someone threatens you, better be ready to defend your self. Because this is the road, buddy. And if you’re like the title character in Mad Max, you have to be careful not to like the no-holds-barred world of the road.

The gist: There’s a lot that’s not really clear in the movie, so here’s a small briefer: We’re in a future Australia. There’s a fuel shortage, which we know purely because they talk about rationing it out through cards. But people drive everywhere, and the population feels like it’s regressed back into being semi-nomadic. The keepers of the law are a souped-up police force, the pride of which is Max (played by a super-young Mel Gibson).

Max is a pretty mellow guy up front, with a wife and a kid he loves. But he’s self-aware enough to know that the world of the open road is getting more and more dangerous. He wants to get out of the force and rebuild his relationships. But his chief keeps luring him back because he knows Max is the best. They can’t afford to lose him. But when a member of a hellion biker gang is killed by Max in a car chase (no stabbing, he basically lost a game of Chicken), something changes. Max is pursued by the biker gang, and is forces to make a choice. Does he lash out, or keep away from the action for the sake of his family?

What I “learned”: A movie’s genre does not confine it within a certain measure of greatness. Unless, of course, we let it.

This movie plays out very much like Die Hard, wherein the action is earned precisely because the main actor is humanized in other scenes. That was fantastic, and I wish action movies did that more. But if I were to set this movie with another for a double feature, it would be Videodrome. That’s not to say that either film is necessarily great. But both are so singularly unique in what they try to do and in the vision they seek to create. Your mind is melded and re-shaped to try and make sense of them. That’s wonderful. Mad Max is a testament to what action movies could be, if we released them from the confines of their tropes. Even if this movie isn’t my favorite, I will always encourage branching out in this genre.

See this movie if you like: Action movies that invest a lot into aesthetic. If no one had Australian accents, I would have imagined this was set in New Mexico or even some obscure corner of Texas. It plays off the small towns and dusty trails very well. The budget was allegedly under $500,000, and I think the movie does all the better for the sparse shots.

Avoid this movie if: You’re expecting the movie to lay out the setting perfectly. Thanks to celebrities like Patton Oswalt, I had some idea of what to expect from this setting. But you really have to crane around for plot details, and do things like actually listen to Max’s police dispatch radio. You have to work to understand this movie, and resist sinking too deeply into the characterizations. I can definitely understand why that would put some people off. It certainly did me. Let me love you, Mad Max.

 

New Films Watched: 68

Films Re-Watched: 2

Total Number of Films: 70

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