(After Dark) Mad Max Review

Mad Max After Dark Review
By Bret Dorman

I’ve only ever driven over 100 MPH once. It was late at night and a friend and I were driving home in separate cars. Once we hit the highway I was determined not to let him pass me, for whatever odd reason I decided. I was certain he would try to pass and as I sped up so did he. I didn’t stop accelerating until I looked down and saw my speedometer was at 105 or 110. My whole car was shaking (it was a 95 Ford Probe, not in the greatest shape) and I could feel adrenaline pumping through my veins as fast as the gas was pumping through my car. Finally I slowly decelerated to normal speed and later I found out my friend, who stayed behind me all the way, said he was determined to just stick behind me, no matter how fast or slow.

I’m not a huge “car guy” or anything. I don’t really know how they work or what makes some go faster than others. I know faster is better and obviously I’d like to go fast a lot since it gets me to wherever I’m going quicker. I’m generally not a thrill seeker other than any ride at an amusement park. I’m not a man who goes out of my way to prove his masculinity; however, hitting that 100 MPH mark did have me feeling manly in the most stereotypical way. I felt both power and danger behind the wheel. And it felt good.

That was the only time I’ve ever driven that fast though. Why? Because I am not that stupid (twice). I am NOT a fuel injected suicide machine. I am NOT the Nightrider. I am just some dude who enjoys movies. One of those movies being Mad Max, a movie any film lover and speed junkie alike can admire.

Classic Mad Max theatrical poster showcasing its "futuristic" coolness.

Classic Mad Max theatrical poster showcasing its “futuristic” coolness.

The Story: Max (Mel Gibson) is a tough cop who isn’t afraid to go bumper to bumper with ruthless street gangs and fight fire, aka speed, with fire, aka speed. He tries to give it all up to spend time with his family, but when the gangs come for them too they turn the matter personal. Big mistake! Also, this movie takes place in the “future.”

Obviously the first big thing on people’s minds is Mel Gibson. Yes, the man has gone off the deep end and done some silly, aka stupid, things like go on some anti-Semitic drunken tirades. But the beauty of movies is they can transport you back in time (and in the case of this movie, simultaneously to the future) where Gibson is a badass, plain and simple. He’s so badass, in his introduction he is shown from behind putting on sunglasses and then the camera pushes in to a side mirror only to reveal his boyishly masculine jawline. You don’t even get the payoff of the sunglasses until a couple of shots later. That kind of stylistic choice takes guts. The kind of guts that also makes the police chief mostly shirtless with the exception of some sort of ascot as well as a mustache and muir cap. The main villain also fills the movie with a creepy masculine/feminine vibe as he controls the wildly chaotic gang sub-culture, taking pleasure in keeping them on his leash. In any other movie these character would be laughed at, but in the hero-less world of Mad Max they are revered with caution and true power.

Max. Shotgun. Car. That's about all you need to know.

Max. Shotgun. Car. That’s about all you need to know.

Mad Max starts off immediately with a thrilling chase scene where the camera puts you right in the high speed action and the filmmakers aren’t afraid to wreck and roll a couple of cars for the sake of good ol’ fashion entertainment. The whole Practical Effects vs CGI argument isn’t as black and white as most make it out to be. There are plenty of silly looking or bad effects out there on both sides. It’s not what you chose, but how you chose to use it. And this movie excels at not just having real cars and cycles at high speeds, but making you feel the speed as well. The cars and motors are an essential part of the heroic-ness that this barbaric future needs. The vehicles of the movie are what the characters use to escape the responsibility of civilization as well as hold those characters responsible for their own decisions. And when characters have conflicting interests, only the fastest, boldest, and maddest survive.

The movie starts off on its strong suit, telling its story visually and with the sounds of revving and screeches. Yet this movie does hit some lulls here and there, especially in its awkward family portrayal and speeches about the thin line that separates the gangs and the bronze. The movie even feels like it was made for TV at times, with sudden transitions in scenes and mood that might be better suited with a couple ads in between. Even the way it introduces the “Halls of Justice”, with the same exterior shot and musical sting every time, seems ripped right out of television culture. I bring this up not to rag on the movies lower budget handicap, rather to highlight a different aspect. While the movie seems like an imitation of more typical revenge “this time its personal” renegade cop stories, the stand out feature other than its stunts is the griminess. Where other films desperately try to make their world gritty, Mad Max excels at kicking up some dust and covering the world, characters, and cars all in a fine layer of dirt and danger.

Cool fan made minimalist poster highlighting the movies other star.

Cool fan made minimalist poster highlighting the movies other star.

The movie comes around to its strengths at the end as the final fifteen minutes become what is basically one giant road rage revenge montage. Max suddenly and silently transforms from movie character to cinematic legend the likes of Dirty Harry as he dons the bronze badge but chooses to dispense a righteous justice that the laws of man would make difficult. The final death that predates Saw gets the crowd cringing with pleasure. As we all know, Mad Max spawned some pretty ridiculous sequels. Lord Humungus and his pack of wild gas guzzling maniacs really bring the post apocalyptic world and crazy stunts to life in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. And Tina Turner churns in a deliciously campy performance as Mad Max reaches full chaos Beyond Thunderdome. Despite those movies’ bigger budgets and more iconic villains, the legend of Mad Max had to start somewhere and here we get to see just how the madness started… on the roads of revenge!

Why You Must See It After Dark: The allure of the midnight hour usually brings with it heavy eyelids. But there’s no way you’ll get caught sleeping at the wheel as Mad Max puts you in the passenger seat of the police interceptor driving over 100 MPH on the silver screen. Even if you’re not a typical “car guy” or adrenaline junkie you can’t help but admire the daring stunts and earnest visceral thrill ride. Besides, the movie manages to show a slightly exaggerated and fantastical future and there’s no better atmosphere to get that in than the state of the art, technically impressive vibe of the Angelika at Mosaic. The only thing we’re missing are seat belts for the ride!

The Interceptor's engine and the man mad enough to get behind its wheel.

The Interceptor’s engine and the man mad enough to get behind its wheel.

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