Mad Max ★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

“I am the Nightrider, I'm a fuel-injected suicide machine”

This is the film that started it all – so says the Blu-ray cover. The opening is a great start off, giving us minimal glimpses of Gibson's Max as he prepares for the chaos of the road. “Any longer on that road and I'm one of them” he will later tell his boss Fifi. And indeed it seems like Max already succumbed to the fuel-injected insanity, even turning the Nightrider into a teary mess after winning a round of chicken.

And that is the reason why his boss Fifi – wonderfully played by Roger Ward – even courts Max with some hot car candy. Because "people don't believe in heroes any more” and Max is that – a hero. “You're a winner”, he's told, “you're on the top shelf.” A hero although who turns vigilante at the end of the film, having seen his friend, wife and son perish due to the Toecutter's biker gang. A winner who loses everything – maybe even his mind.

The catharsis of the character is understandable. He enjoys and therefore fears the madness on the road, as a result trying to quit his job several times. The burning of Goose finally does the trick, showing Mad what could (and, unfortunately, will) await his own family. Considering how Goose looks down on these "scags" it may seem a bit irritating how Toecutter, Bubba Zanetti and others dismantle the motorcyclist cop (and Fifi, in a reportedly deleted scene) easily and without real consequences. Also irritating are the chances that Max and Jessie stop at the same town Toecutter's gang is staying. And, after escaping, them finding the family at their hideout.

It's an excuse to push the drama and get Max to that final stage, so he can become Mad Max for the last 20 minutes. But it doesn't help that the Toecutter throughout the film seems less interesting than the Nightrider – or even Bubba Zanetti and Johnny the Boy for that matter. He is weirdo with no morals, even making a pass at a woman with a baby on her arm and eventually riding them over. I can understand the Nightrider and Bubba Zanetti, Toecutter not so much.

The second act is the one where the movie for me has issues. The farm scene kind of drags and narratively struggles. In all of Australia this biker gang and this little family encounter each other not only once but twice without real explanation. The choices the characters make in these scenes are also not very sound (running away from a biker gang...splendid). It's a means to an end, I get it, but maybe it could've been resolved better – even for an independent movie.

Overall "Mad Max" is an enjoyable action flick though with an intriguing setting and captivating characters in it. All the more impressive considering the independent budget. I'm not a banker but those A$400,000 should equal around $1,000,000 today, inflation considered, so money well invested by Mr. Miller.

Movies did far worse with a lot more and "Mad Max" still stands its ground 36 years later. It's a winner. It's top shelf.