Mad Max 2 (1982)
By: Mr Intolerance on July 9, 2009  | 
DVD
Warner Brothers (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, French DD 5.1, Italian DD 1.0. English, French, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, English (FHI), Italian (FHI) Subtitles. 91 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: George Miller
Starring: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Mike Preston, Max Phipps, Vernon Wells, Emil Minty
Screenplay: Terry Hayes, George Miller, Brian Hannant
Country: Australia
External Links
IMDB Rotten YouTube
When post-apocalyptic films are done poorly, they're still good, so imagine what they're like when they're done well. Mad Max 2, a milestone film for this hybrid action/science-fiction/horror sub-genre is done very well indeed. In some regards, I see this film as being even more of an influence on the boom of Italian post-apoc films than its ground-breaking predecessor. Is it better? No – but, and please excuse the cliché, it's an equal more than just a sequel. Do you need to have seen the first one to "get" this film? No, not at all. In many ways our introduction to our main character "Mad" Max Rockatansky (Gibson) in this film is more akin to our orientation to some of Clint Eastwood's bad-arse nameless Western heroes in films such as For A Few Dollars More or High Plains Drifter, especially the latter film.

After a title sequence which proclaims the film to actually be entitled The Road Warrior, the US title of the film, and a release which features the actors voices being excruciatingly dubbed over by US voice actors (this put the fear of God into me for a second – I thought I'd been given the US version by mistake), we get that fantastic staple of the post-apoc genre, the enigmatic voice-over (it becomes apparent who's delivering it at the end of the film): "My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are memories. I remember…a time of chaos. Ruined dreams of this wasted land. But most of all, I remember the Road Warrior. The man we called Max. To understand who he was you have to go back to another time, when the world was powered by the black fuel, and the deserts sprouted great cities of pipe and steel. Gone now, swept away for reasons long forgotten, two mighty warrior tribes went to war, and touched off a blaze which engulfed them all. Without fuel, they were nothing. They built a house of straw, their thundering machines sputtered and stopped. Their leaders talked, and talked, and talked. But nothing could stem the avalanche. Their world crumbled. The cities exploded; a whirlwind of looting, a firestorm of fear. Men began to feed on men. On the roads it was a white-line nightmare. Only those mobile enough to scavenge, brutal enough to pillage would survive. The gangs took over the highways, ready to wage war for a tank of juice. And in this maelstrom of decay, ordinary men were battered and smashed. Men like Max, the warrior Max. In the roar of an engine, he lost everything and became a shell of a man, a burnt out desolate man, a man haunted by the demons of his past, a man who wandered out into the wasteland. And it was here, in this blighted place, that he learned to live again.

Max is a loner in a desolate post-apocalyptic wasteland, cruising the highways in search of guzzoline, as it gets referred to here, to power his nitro-injected V8, possibly the coolest car in movie history (although Reggie Bannister's Hemi-Cuda in the Phantasm series does give it a run for its money). His only companion is his faithful blue heeler, Dog. He looks, as the opening narrative, delivered over images of chaos, concluding with scenes from the first film, like a husk of his former self. The same could be said for the last of the V8s. Expository narration over (with its requisite contemporary fears of the Cold War heating up, our own innate savage natures, and running out of the fuel we'd become so dependent on by the 80s – OPEC had a virtual stranglehold on the market at this time), it's time for a car chase. It's pretty good, although not a patch on the 11 minute scorcher from the first film with the Night-Rider.

It's odd, y'know – the first film played it relatively straight, was violent as hell, and yet relatively restrained in its use of blood and guts (I did say "relatively"), this film has much more of a comic book tone, more sadistically graphic violence, and yet despite the violence, has a lower impact. In this chase we meet Wez (Vernon Wells), a purple-mohawked biker who basically sets the tone and wardrobe for post-apoc bad-guys even up until now (Doomsday, anyone?). He gets about the wasteland on his great big fuck off bike with the Golden Youth on the pillion, chained to Wez. And that'd set the campy homoeroticism that also became a trademark of the genre. This is one of the first of three discernable cuts seen in this copy of the film. In the course of events, Wez cops a crossbow bolt though the arm, which he pulls out, ready to be reused. The scene is changed slightly here, and shortened. It's a pretty minimal cut, but you just know it's there…

And so Max gets to meet up with the first of his odd-ball associates, the Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence), a tall gangly fella who pilots a gyro-copter, and who reveals the central plot device of the film – in the middle of the desert is a refinery, making their own petrol, and there's a lot of it about, apparently, for the right sort of resourceful fella to maybe get his hands on. Instead of knifing the guy to death, people not really being all that trusting in this day and age, Max is curious, and demands proof. The compound is there alright, but it's being besieged by the gang we encountered earlier, led by the Humungous, who kind of resembles Conan wearing a Jason Vorhees-style ice-hockey mask. He has about the same manners and social etiquette as Jason as well… He and his gang want the guzzoline as well, and they're than happy to step over a mound of dead bodies to get it, if they have to.

The defenders try to send out scouts to find a rig big enough to pull their guzzoline laden tanker out of this mess, but they're no match for the Humungous' crew, in their souped up, armoured and otherwise enhanced bikes, dune buggies and cars, who take prisoner, mutilate, kill or rape those they catch. Max, despite looking little better than one of them, still possesses that sense of honour and duty that made us admire the fella in the first film – he was a good cop after all – decides to step in and even up the odds. His hatred of gangs, having seen his best mate, son and wife, as well as sundry other innocent folk die by their hand, has NOT dissipated. It's amazing what you can use bolt-cutters for.

And it's time for Max's next left-of-centre amigo to step up to the plate – the Feral Kid, a savage little blighter with a lethally sharp chrome boomerang, used to a pretty devastating effect later in the film – before you ask how he can catch something so dangerous, he has an armoured glove that's up to the task.

Max brings one of the wounded scouts back to the compound, but unless words like "trash" and "parasite" have come to take on a new meaning, I'd say he wasn't exactly welcomed with open arms. Mind you, the Feral Kid isn't too welcoming to the bikers when they turn up, with some of the other scouts as hood ornaments, and welcome to cut scene #2 – the boomerang fucks up somebody's day completely (watch and find out who) – well, two people, if you want to be accurate, but it really fucks one guy's averages, by burying itself in his head; in the original Roadshow R-rated Australian VHS version another character tries to remove it – that is cut here. D'Oh! The Humungus (referred to as "The Warrior of the Wasteland" – I thought that was either George Eastman or the fella who plays Scorpion in The New Barbarians) delivers an ultimatum – the guzzoline or your lives. One day to decide.

Max offers the folks in the compound a deal – he'll provide the rig to pull the tanker (from an abandoned truck he saw two days previously), and they return his V8, and give him as much juice as he carry, and so they'll have a fighting chance of escaping the Humungus and his merry men. The folks, under their ruler Pappagallo, aren't terribly happy but what choice do they have? And so Max departs, having already won over the Feral Kid at least, with a music box he found at the start of the film – I'm not too sure what that's meant to represent; the fact that despite the fact that he's little better than a savage, he's still a kid at heart, and so therefore innocent? Or maybe that savages can be won over with shiny baubles? Beats me. I must've seen this film maybe four or five dozen times, and it's never really been answered satisfactorily for me. Regardless, the Feral Kid is now loyal to Max.

Max and the Gyro Captain (yeah, he's turned up again like the proverbial bad penny) get back to the rig, and get it into working order. Maybe this cockamamie scheme will work! Things are starting to go well, after all. Aaaah, who am I kidding? We all know that it's all about to go horribly, horribly wrong, and that this is a post-apocalyptic film, and we haven't had nearly enough violence for such a beast, especially for such an iconic one. Plus, we need another car chase – stat!

And we fucking get one, too; a great car chase with lots of killings and violence – Max gets the rig back to the compound, but in doing so the folks let in Wez and a whole bunch of the Humungus' homeboys – tense? Hell yes! Action a-plenty, and it doesn't really let up until the end of the film. The movie does tend to move at a break-neck pace, but in the last few scenes, it grabs itself by the nuts and twists, and delivers even more than it already (and impressively) had been. Damn thing sucks nitro like Max's V8!

The Humungus and his bizarre accent (part American, part Austrian, it seems) are really pissed off at this turn of events, and start their terror tactics against Max (who basically just wants to get the fuck outta there) and the folks in the compound, who are feverishly trying to get the rig road-worthy, having sustained a fair bit of collateral damage on the way back to the compound (a magnum slug through the radiator will do that). They want Max to drive the rig, but he's not keen – well, being a loner and all – when all's said and done, it will be the most dangerous job. Max, apparently disturbed by the trust and hope people are putting in him again (one of Pappagallo's speeches has all the sincerity and verve of Fifi's "heroes" speech from the original film, albeit with a different slant), fucks off. Running away from one's duty is dealt with pretty harshly by the cosmos here, and Max pays large. But then again, if these films haven't taught us anything else, they have taught us that vengeance counts for a lot. So does loyalty.

Max drives the rig. This leads us to one of the most high-octane (sorry) car chases in celluloid history. Doomsday tried to ape this and failed nobly in attempting to beat it – this is a stand alone. George Miller and the stunt and special effects team all deserve medals for this, end of story. If you can find me a more exciting climax to a film, I want to see it, and now. Blowing up the Death Star? Not even in the hunt. Just watch this through to the end from here on the biggest screen you can find, and revel in it – cinema platinum.

We tick all of the post-apocalyptic boxes here: Loner hero, seemingly morally ambiguous; Tribal looking bad-guys, seemingly sexually ambiguous; Nasty, squalid violence; Desolate wasteland; What seems like a lost cause; Oddball what-the-fuck moments of bizarreness; Primitive society that really isn't too far out of savagery; Makeshift weapons that really do up the pain ante in combat scenes; Boss fights that are truly bizarre and uber-gruesome.

Yep, we got 'em all. Watch this film and love it more than your children.
Video
Well, when Dean Semler is your DP, you can rest assured that your film is going to look amazing, and even despite the fact that this film is cut – albeit minutely – the transfer is pretty fucking impressive. Looks great, in fact. Cinemascope, anamorphically enhanced – nice. No grain, no artefacts, no shimmer – a slice of fried gold.
Audio
Also good in 5.1, which it makes the most of, what with all the explosions and such. Also, another drawcard: Brian May was back on board for this one on soundtrack duty (he must have been a busy boy in Ozploitation flicks back then), and he pulls it off with his usual aplomb.
Extra Features
Bugger all, which is disappointing. Seriously kids, there's not an Extra to be seen. That's fucking criminal for a film of this calibre.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
If you haven't seen this film, I hate you. For a start it's top notch Australian film-making, for a second, it's THE post-apocalyptic film, nothing else even touches it. I did knock a point off the DVD presentation score for the film being cut and Extra-less, but the sound and image more than make up for that. Violent, brooding and still with a sense of humour, Mad Max 2 is movie brilliance. As a matter of fact, I'm now going to watch it again.

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