MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR (1982)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 34 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

RoadWarrior poster

Directed by: George Miller

Written by: Terry Hayes, George Miller & Brian Hannant

Starring: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Emil Minty, Michael Preston, Virginia Hey, Kjell Nilsson, Vernon Wells & Max Phipps

The first MAD MAX was a combination of superhero origin story, revenge tale, and cop drama. ROAD WARRIOR abandons that formula for something entirely different and goes absolutely off the wall into beautiful madness. This film is awesome! Calling it one of the best action films to come out of the 80’s would be an understatement. This sequel right is next to ALIENS in terms of being a second installment in a successful science fiction series that outdoes the original in every conceivable way. Featuring some of the best action scenes ever put to film and a berserk set of sensibilities, ROAD WARRIOR is a surefire crowd-pleaser and one of the best films to come out of the 1980’s…period!

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Time has passed since Max avenged the deaths of his family. In that span of time, the post-apocalyptic world has gotten worse. Gasoline is running out and wars are being fought over fuel. Max, now a drifter, comes across a small community hiding behind a small fortress in order to collect enough gasoline to escape the harsh environment of the Australian desert. Instantly seeing Max as an enemy, the community takes the former cop (turned drifter) prisoner. It soon becomes apparent that Max is the only hope that this little group of survivors have. A gang of vicious psychopaths, led by the hockey-mask wearing Humungus, have staked a claim on this small community and their precious fuel supply. It’s Max and the community vs. Humungus and his band of crazies on the fierce road landscape of the Australian Outback.

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The first MAD MAX wasn’t necessarily action packed from beginning to end. There were certainly stand-out sequences, but there were also moments of character development for Max, his conflicts, and his family. Now that Max’s origin story has been told, ROAD WARRIOR is free to go off the rails into insane glory and that’s exactly what it does! The ante has been upped. Mad Max is more of a brooding, reluctant hero who has come a long way since his vigilante justice seen at the end of the first film. Max has become more of a solitary beast doing what he needs to in order to survive. He already had one story arc and is given another among this community. You might be able to predict what happens, but it doesn’t matter at all. This flick rocks and is all about kicking ass. It does its job in a fantastic way that’s likely to be the highest point in the series (though we’ll see how FURY ROAD stacks up). The villains are far more colorful this time around with dyed hair, mohawks, odd fashion choices and a gang leader who could be mistaken for Jason Voorhees being played by Arnold Schwarzenegger during any other point in the 80’s. Though the Outback setting is barren and set pieces are sparse, George Miller manages to evoke the feeling of hopelessness and desperation. This is the end of the world and it’s not a pretty sight, but is insanely fun!

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The action scenes are simply amazing to behold and stand out on own their own individual merits. There’s a long sequence near the beginning that’s gets the adrenaline pumping. An intense chase scene near the middle sets up a huge applause-worthy punchline to a joke that’s set up way in advance. However, the best sequence in the film is a show-stopping finale that holds up as remarkable given today’s action movie standards. These car crashes were real and feel real. Though it lasts for nearly 15 minutes, the final showdown of vehicular carnage never once gets dull or repetitive. The stakes are high in colorful characters who have been developed throughout the film, the fate of an entire community hanging on a thread (or in this case a semi-truck driven by Max), and plenty of bodies flying around. To think this was made in the early 80’s makes the whole film even more impressive in terms of how well-constructed every piece of action is! An opening and closing narration doesn’t feel cheesy in the slightest either as the pay-off is surprisingly powerful.

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I can’t think of a single action movie buff or science fiction fan who won’t adore this movie. THE ROAD WARRIOR joins an extremely rare breed of sequel: one that not only lives up to, but easily surpasses its predecessor. MAD MAX was a highly influential and classic film. This second entry is on an entirely separate level of greatness. ROAD WARRIOR is absolutely a must-see! FURY ROAD will have a lot to live up to come May.

Grade: A+

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