Monday, 11 March 2013

Mad Max (AUS, 1979)

The now seminal dystopian semi-futuristic Aussie vehicle based action thriller that brought Gibson into the limelight and gave us a damn good franchise to boot.

This story has now been rehashed many times over right down to the last detail, we all know it. 'Max' is a leather bound cop in Oz who takes down nutters in his souped up Ford Falcon with the aid of his other fellow leather bound cops. A gang of makeup wearing bikers invade the territory tearing it up and eventually killing Max's wife, child and partner. Of course this means all out bloody war and revenge for Rockatansky (seriously what is with that name?!).

A simple premise but at the time the whole visual approach of the film was quite fresh and exciting. Plus the fact it came from the relatively unknown country of Australia made it even more intriguing. Didn't really know much about Australia when I was a kid (during the 80's it was all American culture), certainly didn't see anything on TV from that region so this film felt really new and different when I first saw it (apart from the odd Paul Hogan flick). The film mainly deals with Max's peaceful life with his family and how society has broken down due to oil shortages. Actually somewhat slow for the most part, the start and finale are the high points.

The film kicks off with blistering pace as we get some fantastic car action from the now cult vehicles. Much like Japanese super saloons the cars aren't the prettiest to look at but they've got it where it counts. Great low camera angles, editing, deep rasping reverberating engine sounds, the odd bit of sped up film and lots of grinding beat-up metal really does make these sequences feel grounded gritty and real. The low budget seriously helps the film and certainly lives up to the notion that when you have little money you must be more creative which in turn can make a film look better in the end.

Love the shots of Max as he sits calmly in his car waiting for Nightrider, the calm before the storm. Slowly he puts on his leather driving gloves, preps the car and then the still closeup shot of his eyes behind tinted shades...reminded me of 'Drive'.

I have always thought this film does tend to lag through the middle as said before. After the initial turbo charged action the film does sit back with the plot and take things gently. This isn't bad as you do get character build up for the events to come but you can't help but yearn for more carnage. Its hard to judge this movie if you ask me, the second is the best by a clear country mile, this first chapter is also very good but at the same time a tad weak. The bad guys are fun but not really too threatening...especially as they're on bikes (oh so dated bikes now) and so easily rammed off the road. Hugh Keays-Byrne does add much needed flavour to the bad guy gang but I always felt that he didn't really do enough, merely sits around grimacing and snarling into the camera (with eye makeup on). The way they murder Max's wife and child isn't very realistic either...not on bikes anyway, plus the editing is a bit jerky there methinks.

The ending gets back into gear as Max gets his revenge, what you've been waiting for the whole time. Whipping out the trusty Pursuit Special he tears up the highway and does what needs to be done in reasonably satisfying fashion. The film may have been violent for the time but nowadays its very very tame with obvious dummy usage...but the real time stunts are still impressive.

The film doesn't date tooooo badly, the cars are still awesome if a bit clunky looking, costumes hold up just about oh and the homosexual vibe is correct and present in parts. A big butch leather bound bald guy with a thick handlebar moustache and goes by the name of 'Fifi'?! The all male biker gang that wears makeup and stroke each other a lot...does make you wonder. Never the less a solid entry made even better by the fact it came from nowhere and with little budget, just a tiny bit dull in the middle.