dir: George Miller
Some works of art are classics because they have a universal, timeless quality that transcends era, class, eyesight, and anything else you can think of, in order to be beloved by many throughout the ages. Others are classics only because people have been saying they’re classics for long enough to fool the world itself.
Mad Max is a classic because people have been calling it such for so long that no-one remembers just how amateurish and cheap it truly was. In the mouths and fingertips of many, Mad Max put Australian flicks on the international map and launched several careers in the movies, not least of which being Mel “the Jews are out to get me” Gibson. Sure, it did kickstart Gibson’s career, and the production juggernaut that was Byron Kennedy / George Miller.
But the flick is pretty crap. An enjoyable crappy flick on some levels, but a crappy flick nonetheless.
After the passing of nearly 30 years, the flick doesn’t really stand the test of time. It is a product of its time, certainly, but it really just a ripoff of plenty of other American flicks of the era. The 1970s threw up a fair few flicks where the main point of the story (not the least of which being Dirty Harry) would be some lone figure standing against the tide of criminal barbarism that threatened to engulf society.
It’s not a very different concept from the rugged individualist cowboy mentality of a much earlier time in American history, but it is enhanced by the under siege mentality of middle class people being threatened by the hordes of the great unwashed common to the era. And revenge, sweet revenge; that dish best served icy cold also rears its petulant head.
Mad Max heartily rips off that concept, and puts the cop in the role of moral authority /avenger and as bulwark against rowdy bikers in a post-apocalyptic future. Max Rockatansky (Gibson) is a cop in the Main Force Patrol, and he cruises the badlands in his yellow (but masculine) cop car pursuing the nasty buggers that infest the dystopian landscape.
Through nothing so much as street signs speaking of Forbidden Zones, and a few cryptic remarks in dialogue, we get the feeling that something bad has happened to the world, and the hot rodding dragster cops are the only element keeping society together. The fabric of society: that tissue thin piece of underwear threatening to tear asunder if some nasty pervert so much as breathes on it funny, can only be saved by leather clad cops chasing hoons on country roads.
Like the ads used to say, ‘Country people die on country roads.”