Sometimes known by the unfeasibly bad-ass title “The Road Warrior”, George Miller’s ambitiously deranged sequel to his own DIY dystopian original somehow is regularly forgotten about whenever “best ever sequels” lists pop up on social media feeds. In an attempt to clear up this woeful act of neglect, I feel that the pros of this gonzo lump of Aussie-flavoured carnage must be yelled from the rooftops whenever possible.
As a movie that can be slotted in with other such glorious, full-throttle absurdities such as Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2, Mad Max’s second outing acts as unrestrained trip through the mind of it’s director as an expanded budget (and somehow even less actual plot) allows him to push his thoroughly mental concepts and visuals to limits rarely seen in 1980’s American cinema.
It’s still the future but the crumbling line between civilisation and utter spit-flinging anarchy has all but dissipated, leaving hordes of rapey, screaming lunatics roaming the highways, violently scavenging for precious fuel. Leading a particularly nasty group of sadists and perverts known as The Marauders, is the self proclaimed “Ayatollah Of Rock & Rolla”: the Lord Humongous, a hockey masked, muscle-bound despot who compliments the bulging veins in his disfigured skull with a fetching neck brace and nipple harness combo. He and his gang of freaks have targeted a small, protected settlement built around a single pump oil refinery and leads frequent raids and attacks on the simple people within while appealing eloquently for aid over a microphone.
Into this white-line nightmare wanders Max, a highway policeman in a former time, who traverses the wastelands like a Clint Eastwood character from the old west armed with a V-8 muscle car. Fleeing from his traumatic past, Max has no particular allegiances or even the merest hint of a 5 year life plan and simply travels around aimlessly looking for his next meal or fuel stop. After a chance run in with a gyrocopter pilot, Max learns of the settlers plight and manages to unwittingly find himself offering to aid them but only in exchange for a sizable fee of fuel which he tries to earn by salvaging a wrecked truck he previously spotted on his travels. With this truck the settlers could travel with all the fuel they need to escape their daily plight of being raided by freaks who, despite having no fuel reserves, seem to have an endless supply of bondage gear (black leather? In the apocalyptic Australian sun? Are you fucking SERIOUS?) and so with Max’s reluctant help they arrange to make a break for it despite the fact that the Marauders will be clinging to them like shit to a blanket but as the two tribes indulge themselves in a brutal freeway free-for-all that leaves crushed chassis and mangled men in it’s wake, who will possibly come out on top?
Those of you who hunger for rich dialogue, elaborate plots and painstaking characterisation will most likely leave the insanity of Mad Max 2 horribly malnourished as Miller’s outback, action, opus has no time to waste on pleasantries like subtlety; not when there’s a magnificently realised world to explore. Christ, barely any of the characters are even given actual NAMES, with such description populating the end credits like “The Warrior Woman”, “The Toadie” and “Feral Child” – but the fifth gear nature of the relentless pace means that all these eccentric beings that populate such a shitty world, immediately pop into the consciousness and remain completely memorable. It shouldn’t come over as three dimentional as it does with The Feral Child being a noticable example; as the pug-faced little bugger growls, snarls and terrorizes men twice his size with his skull splitting, razor sharp boomerang while still being oddly sweet in his dog like fascination with Max. However, if we’re talking REALLY memorable then we have to discuss the great Vernon Welles’ (Commando, Innerspace) performance as The Humongous’ right hand basket case, Wez.
Clad in burly shoulder pads, ass-less chaps and a mohawk that looks like it could plane wood, he rampages throughout the film, screaming at everything that moves like it’s a national sport and proves to be a worthy foe for the four, monosyllabic Max.
Ah yes, Max. As much an enigma as he’s ever been, Mel Gibson still enfuses him with that pent up, coiled-spring mania that continuously bubbles just under the surface, stubbornly refusing to allow the humanity buried deep within him to come forward; but even though he probably has even less lines than he does in the original – Max is hardly what you’d call a talker – curiously he seems a far more rounded character here than he ever was.
Of course everything is cast aside in favour of of the barnstorming final chase; a truly stupendous, near wordless (unless you count “AAAAIIIIEEEEEE!” as words), action sequence as various tricked out vehicles barrel down the black top and stuntmen aggressively test their mortality in order to entertain us as they crash, flip and rag doll through the frame with legitimately frightening velocity. It’s almost a visual, rag tag piece of classical music where the shriek of metal on metal could be the strings and the crescendo of an impact could be the deafening boom of a drum and it’s a truly impressive piece of old-school filmmaking that effortlessly presents the cult film as a legitimate cinematic art form.
In fact the legacy of the Road Warrior is still keenly felt to this day as a lot of post apocalyptic movies that followed in George Miller’s sizable dust trails (especially all the inevitable Italian rip offs) were mostly identikit copies of the makeshift, battered world presented here – and lest we forget, the peerless Mad Max: Fury Road itself is essentially a two hour remake of Mad Max 2’s final third with more recognizable faces thrown in.
So load up on gasoline, put the pedal to the metal and prepare to hurtle, screaming through the windscreen of one of the most underrated action thrillers of the early eighties.
Awesome, to the Max.