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Friday, February 6, 2009

GREAT MOVIES: The Road Warrior (a.k.a. Mad Max 2, 1981)

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Mel Gibson drives a turbo-charged Ford Falcon throughout a punk infested, post-apocalyptic desert world in Mad Max 2: the Road Warrior.

The first film, properly titled Mad Max (1979), is about a cop whose job is to “intercept” criminals that are on the run. After a biker gang that's entirely insane runs over his wife and infant child, Max loses his sanity and seeks murderous revenge against the entire gang. When that film premiered in the United States it barely made any money because it was too out there and audiences just didn’t “get it”. And when director George Miller made a sequel, he was afraid that it would receive the same consensus overseas. So he decided to call it The Road Warrior instead of Mad Max 2. It's also a good thing that he did not treat it as a hardcore sequel because it soared in the North American box office and became an instant cult hit.

Fast-forward 28 years and the film continually receives critical praise and has been added to many “1,000 movies you must watch before you die” lists.

It’s quite a praise to be placed on such a list, seeing that there are, probably, over a billion movies out there. And I certainly would place it in my top 200, if I ever decided to not have a life and start such a list.

In The Road Warrior, Max is still driving his turbo-charged Ford Falcon, which most none-Australians had confused for a Pontiac Trans Am for decades, and he still has his trusty dog. Only this time, he's just on the lookout for gasoline and survival because hat's all that's left to do on this planet. Max is leather clad and totes a shotgun and in the film's intro he's chased through a desert highway by punks on motorcycles and ATVs. He outmaneuvers most of them and drives on. Eventually he sees a small colony that's built around an oil pump right smack dab in the middle of the desert, but they're also surrounded by the rest of that desert punk gang. The punks are lead by a hockey-masked wearing, terrifically muscular, homicidal maniac who calls himself Humongous. Max decides to help those being murdered by the desert punk gang but only because they can get him gasoline.

This film features breathtakingly fast car chases that are performed with real cars and real stuntmen, and it final thirteen minutes showcase a car chase that involves a semi truck, dune buggies, a gyro-copter, and various styles of motorcycles. The Road Warrior is brutal, fast-paced, and most importantly, terrifically fun. It’s also, easily one of the best action films ever made.

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There’s really not much else to say except that the stunt work will make audiences cringe. In one scene, a man riding a motorcycle while driving 120 km/h smashes into a car and goes flying at an incredible distance. You see the bike get smashed and you see the biker fly through the air toward asphalt. It’s even crazy just thinking about it but this movie was shot entirely on location and outdoors, and every stunt is real. Except, of course I doubt that there were stuntmen during the one-on-one collision between a semi truck and a dune-buggy. I can only hope that dummies replaced the real drivers.

Watch what a 23 year old Mel Gibson can do with a shotgun, a hungry dog, a really fast car, and the determination to stay alive.

The Road Warrior

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