Before he went Beyond Thunderdome, and then later on his now famous anti-semitic rant, Max was just a pissed off widowed ex-cop fanging around the countryside with his dog.
For some reason the original Mad Max become a cult classic with its low budget view of the post-apocalyptic world, and the sudden violence justified by sheer revenge and the required brutality in such a world.
Mad Max 2 shouldn’t have worked, it is a 30 minutes story stretched to over 90 minutes, but made memorable with one incredible chase scene that closes the film.
We rejoin Max as he attempts to navigate through a world in chaos, where marauding gangs rape, pillage and kill for pleasure, and petrol is a much valued and scare commodity.
Early in film Max and his dog come across such a gang attempting to breech the defenses of a well guarded outpost that apparently holds a large and precious reserve of fuel, the gang is led by one calling himself the Great Humongous and includes several equally unique and well muscled members.
And this is exactly where the strength of Mad Max 2 lies, if the bad guys weren’t so awesome and it was simply “Max Vs some naughty dudes”, this would have vanished from public consciousness 25 years ago, in this case though it has been mentioned and parodies so many times it isn’t funny, in some ways Americans still view Australia as the place Mad Max lives, they also probably wonder if he catches up with Crocodile Dundee every now and then for a beer.
They are awesome, thankfully, and all come across as a blend of bikie / punk / futuristic post-nuclear muscleheads, complete with huge muscles, big petrol-head vehicles and primitive brutal weaponry. Humongous in particular is quite scary, shirtless with hug muscles, a hockey mask that is never removed covering most of a bald head, with two vacant eyes staring out, and thin wispy hairs growing from his scalp. His voice too is quite deep and threatening, and he seems to always be on the megaphone spouting ridiculously pompous threats and boasts.
So Max decides he wants that fuel and ponders a way to get his mitts on it by his lonesome without being killed (or worse) by the outlaw gang or by the innocent people defending what is theirs.
His way in comes soon after he stakes out the scene from a safe vantage point, when some of the innocents attempt to escape, only to fail spectacularly. Max takes back one of the survivors on the promise of fuel, and with the marauders on his tail he enters the compound to receive his reward, only to be told he is shit outta luck once the guy he saves dies.
So switching effortlessly to Plan B, Max tells the good guys that he knows where a truck is that will help them haul the fuel to safety, having come across it earlier. The goodies are suspicious but agree once Max promises to leave his own vehicle with them, a hotted up muscle car, and they realize that if he dies they haven’t lost much.
So Max does as promised, gets the truck back to them and true to his word, shoots through, leaving them somewhat in the lurch as they apparently expected him to hang around and help. (I must side with Max here, he said what he was planning to do and did it, bitching about it afterwards made no sense.)
The problem arises when Max’s escape attempt is thwarted by the marauders, who after a brief but exciting chase total Max’s HotWheels cop-car and leave him for dead. This sorta leaves Max with no other option, and tail between his legs he heads back and agrees to drive the truck to what seems to be certain death.
The 20 odd minute chase scene that closes the film is hard to do justice to with words, it is vicious and unrelenting, as wave after wave of the post-nuclear motorheads ram, shoot and attempt to hijack Max’s truck, picking off the helpless defenders on the truck one by one.
The scene is punctuated by amazing stunts that probably wouldn’t be allowed due to safety concerns today, certainly not on a low budget film such as this, and many death scenes in a myriad of brutal and cringeworthy ways.
Does Max win? Who cares? But we all know MM2 was followed by MM3, although aside from the Master-Blaster combo that is probably best forgotten.
Mad Max is full of over the top characters, I haven’t even mentioned Bruce Spence as the crazy snake guy or the “Feral Kid”, who runs about wearing a sporty fur ensemble grunting and back-flipping into tunnels, all the while carrying a metal boomerang. It is also full of great action, cheesy yet quotable dialogue and at times laughable bad acting. At worst it is amusing and entertaining because of some of these faults, at best it is awe-inspiring for some of the action set-pieces.
Final Rating – 7 / 10. Inexplicably entertaining piece of mindless entertainment. Great characters and timeless action sequences remedy the most basic of plots.