Tag: mad max

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
★★★ / ★★★★

Since the fall of modern society, gasoline has become a most valuable commodity. Competition is ferocious and just about anybody is willing to kill for it. When a group of men, women, and children has taken control of an oil refinery in the desert, a gang led by a muscular man named Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) offers a deal: Walk away and their lives would be spared. But these are dishonorable men, not above utilizing lies and deceit to get their hands on gasoline. Max (Mel Gibson), held prisoner in the refinery, offers to help in exchange for his freedom, beloved car, and as much gas as he can carry.

Written by Terry Hayes, George Miller, and Brian Hannant, “The Road Warrior” is a clear example of a movie being about its stunts than plot, story, and dialogue. Although the latter elements are present, these are solely utilized as a means to get to an action sequence. It is neither the most intellectually stimulating nor the most emotionally captivating film, but it is highly entertaining because director George Miller knows how to execute and put together a good-looking action picture with verve.

Notice how the first ten minutes is made up of only images and sounds. There is a lot of violence but the violence is never gratuitous, meant to disgust, or make us look away. On the contrary, it makes us want to know more about this post-apocalytic world. We take note of the kind of vehicles used, the types of clothes the characters wear, their hairstyles. We consider that perhaps these people at war probably have not bathed in weeks, maybe they have not had a proper meal in weeks. We look at the surroundings. They are orange-yellow, barren, heat emanating from rocks and small hills.

There is a saying that we can tell a lot from a movie by watching its first ten or fifteen minutes. In this case, that saying holds true. At one point, I wondered if the picture would still be effective given that the dialogue were completely taken out. I tried to imagine this alternative avenue by really focusing on the images and sounds when no one is speaking. The roars of the vehicles, shrieks of excitement, and screams of pain move to the forefront and then we truly appreciate the sound production and design.

I went a bit further in order to really test its strength. I focused on the images—especially the bodies and faces of the characters that just so happens to be in a frame. For instance, Gibson has a way of communicating a tormented past—one that Max does not wish or that he is too numb to deal with—with only using his eyes. Notice the calculated use of close-ups. When there are people in danger or Max feels guilty for not doing what he knows is right, there is a mix of determination and sadness in those eyes—important because that look is very reminiscent of another version of Max, one found in the predecessor. That familiar humanity is what connects the two films.

There a few weaknesses in the action scenes. Although the chase scene involving the tanker is a standout, there are shots where it looks as though the vehicles are not moving very fast. It is off-putting at times because the close-ups command a sense of danger especially when the villains begin their climb on the truck. Then comes the wide shot of the tanker, motorcycles, and cars racing down the road—together in one shot—and suddenly it is less exciting. Perhaps if these wide shots were sped up a bit during editing, it might have maintained that special excitement throughout.

Nevertheless, “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior” is a well-made action film with very few, if any, visual effects when it comes to vehicular slaughter. We see real metal pounding against one another, real explosions, real people on top, on the side, or underneath of a moving vehicle. About thirty-five years later, it still holds up against the best of the genre.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
★★★ / ★★★★

Assigned to drive a massive truck to collect gasoline, Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has another plan: once there is a good distance between the vehicle and her starting point, she would veer off-track and return to her homeland—along with five wives of cult leader Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byryne). A hot pursuit erupts, with ailing Nux (Nicholas Hoult), chained to a prisoner named Max (Tom Hardy), hoping to impress Immortan Joe so he can be welcomed to Valhalla when he dies.

“Mad Max: Fury Road,” directed by George Miller, is an orgasmic visual exercise of yellow-orange sand, sweltering heat, vehicle acrobatics, dramatic explosions, and deformed, heavy makeup-wearing citizens of a collapsed world bound by no rules. Even without a deep story, it engages thoroughly because the images are so hyperbolic, there is not one film that is remotely like it in the past decade.

The action scenes are inspired and creative. The picture is composed of one long chase sequence but there is variety in the counters between heroes/heroines and villains. With each geographic change, we get an idea about the group of people who live within that area. Particularly memorable is the biker gang waiting atop a narrow canyon. A deal has been made between the gang and Furiosa. Based on how the scene is shot as our protagonists enter the canyon, we know immediately that something is about to go wrong.

Such is the film’s strength: it is shot with a sense of urgency. Although the narration in the beginning briefly describes the circumstances that led to humanity’s decay, we remain curious about its universe nonetheless because it does not spell out every detail. As the characters trek across dry terrains, we discover the journey with them. For instance, the challenge is not only avoiding or eliminating those who try to kill them. All characters must also be wary of and be prepared for the cruel environment that awaits.

At times the picture attempts to do too much. A romantic connection is introduced eventually which does not work at all. The problem is, we have a basic understanding about only half of the would-be couple. Character depth and development is not one of the film’s strengths and so such a desperate attempt to get us emotionally involved, through a romantic scope, comes across as forced and unnecessary. Sometimes less is more.

The two leads, Hardy and Theron, and two supporting actors, Hoult and Keays-Byrne, are a joy to watch because they are unafraid to exaggerate their emotions, to look unattractive physically, to embody their deranged characters completely. Each one commands a high level of creative energy and so he or she is front and center, there is a magnetism and charisma to the performance. We are inspired to learn more about each one of these characters and yet the material has a way of always keeping us at arm’s length. Perhaps we are not meant to get to know these people for their world is so different than ours, they might as well have been of a different species.

Written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nick Lathouris, “Mad Max: Fury Road” is a visual spectacle but there is room for some improvement as mentioned previously. I see potential as a modern franchise—one that is not about superheroes or chosen ones destined to save a dystopian world, but one that is about a decaying world and the degenerates who are struggling to survive in it.

Mad Max

Mad Max (1979)
★★★ / ★★★★

Based on the screenplay by James McCausland and George Miller, “Mad Max” starts off weak—a confusing, unexciting exercise in stunts while showcasing awkward, barely comprehensible dialogue. But something happens during the final third. Suddenly, it begins to gather focus, tension escalates to near unbearable levels, and there is creativity in how action scenes unfold. There is a reason why it is remembered decades after its release.

Max (Mel Gibson) is one of the many patrol cops in the Outback who is constantly on the lookout for the troubles motorcycle gangs create. A man named Nightrider (Vincent Gil), the leader of the gang, has escaped prison, leaving all sorts of raucous in his wake. When Nightrider is eventually indisposed, his followers, led by Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne), end up terrorizing everyone they come across.

The story is replete with colorful performances. Although none of the characters are well-developed, once in a while they are given a line or a shot that ends up being milked to perfection. Keays-Byrne, for example, clearly has fun with the role. Although his presence is not especially intimidating, there is a quality in his performance that reminds me of a dog in the process of becoming fully rabid. Toecutter is unpredictable and it makes him quite entertaining. Toecutter’s right-hand man, Bubba (Geoff Parry), is also interesting, but I was at a loss as to why he wasn’t given more to do or say.

I grew tired of the so-called romantic exchanges between Max and his wife, Jessie (Joanne Samuel). Not once did I believe they are a believable couple. However, the actress is wonderful in portraying a woman who is scared for her life and her baby’s. She is front and center during the film’s most tension-filled scenes. The trick she manages to pull off is feeling scared and coupling that fear with a whiff of surprising toughness. As she runs in a forest suspecting that the men she came across the day before has found her, we anticipate what will happen to her. I enjoyed that women in this picture do more than cower and squeal.

Although the material offers violence, it knows when to pull back. Notice it does not show gruesome details—like a hand being cut off, a body being run over by a motorcycle, a driver hitting the dashboard as one vehicle collides with another. It gives us a chance to imagine the brutality, in parts, which makes it more engaging. Instead, effort is put into how to frame tragedies, like where the camera should be placed when a character we have grown to like meets an untimely demise.

It is a lot to ask of someone to sit through about forty minutes of rather uninspired scenes, but I believe that the final thirty minutes is very strong, it makes the film worth seeing. Even though it is unpolished (I think that quality is a part of the work’s appeal), “Mad Max,” directed by George Miller, is directed with enthusiasm and vision not only when it comes to the action but also of the lonely scenes of endless roads in the Outback. It is set in the future but it has the soul of a western.

Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!

Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2008)
★★★★ / ★★★★

I like to think of myself as an adventurous moviegoer so I’m on the constant lookout for movies that are vastly different from the mainstream. I’ve heard of the term “exploitation film” before (mainly from Quentin Tarantino because his movies often reference to that genre) but I never really knew what it really meant until I saw this film and did a bit of research about it. I really loved this documentary because I really learned a lot from it. I had no idea that Australia released all these cult classics, some of which have never been released in America. The way Australians made and released these daring movies in the 1970s and 1980s was so refreshing because nowadays, especially here in the United States, those kinds of movies are not made anymore. Once in a blue moon an exploitation flick (or a flick inspired from such like “Wolf Creek”) would be made but it was always under the radar no matter how good or bad it was. Speaking of good and bad, another thing that I loved about this documentary was it put the spotlight on good and bad movies alike and the people being interviewed explained why they thought a particular movie was good or bad (or sometimes even both). It fascinated me and I literally made a list of the movies wanted to check out. Some of them include “Mad Max” (1979), “Turkey Shoot” (1982), “Fairgame” (1985), “Dark Age” (1987), “Next of Kin” (1982), “Long Weekend” (1979), “Road Games” (1981), “Patrick” (1978), and others. The documentary, written and directed by Mark Hartley, was divided into several sections which started from movies about sex and nudity and ended with movies about car crashes and extreme violence. While it did cover a plethora of disparate motion pictures, I was also very impressed with the fact that it found enough time to discuss censorship (or lack thereof) in the era of Ozploitation. I wish this movement would repeat itself here in America because I’m starting to get sick of Hollywood trash being released in theaters weekly. Some days, I just want to see intense car chases with no real story but has a great sense of dialogue (like “Death Proof”) or even a movie about science gone wrong with buckets of blood on the side. Nowadays it’s all about the box office and watching this film really made me feel like the filmmakers wanted to make movies just because they were in love with the process–a reason why some of these exploitation films are so randomly original. I was so excited about the content of this movie, I decided to added some movies on my Netflix (the ones available in America anyway). I just want to see something so risqué and possibly something I can love and recommend to my friends when we don’t feel like going out and spending money.