Saturday, May 5, 2007
Mad Max (1979)
What a strangely-paced motion picture.
This is a 93-minute film that took 75 minutes to set up the main story, the main angle, and had its titular protagonist dispose of the baddies in twelve minutes flat.
The setting: Post-apocalyptic Australia. The outback has taken on a every-man-for-himself quality, and packs of nefarious baddies on motorcycles roam this barren wasteland. Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) is a policeman in this warzone that has tired of his job, and wants to spend time with his family. Then, his world comes crashing down when the evil Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne) kills his wife and young child.
Mind you, this comprises over 80% of the film...there are numerous, unimportant subplots pertaining to the force's interaction with the gang (and the fates of his peers Goose and Fifi, among others). Now making sure to make your characters three-dimensional is one thing, but this was just overkill. I got the idea of what they were doing pretty early on, and I think the lengthy exposition could have been cut down, even by twenty minutes, and lengthened the insanely quick revenge portion to a solid half hour of screen time (his family is killed, he immediately finds them, and kills all but one with his car in eight minutes flat...then he chases the leader around for three more minutes, and saves just enough time to viciously wrap up another minor subplot)
Surprisingly enough, actingwise, Gibson is about the least-charismatic or memorable character in the film...his wife (Joanne Samuel) has quite a few memorable scenes and really makes a character, in addition to memorably evil turns by Hugh Keays-Byrne, Tim Burns, Vince Gil and Geoff Parry and Steve Bisley and Roger Ward play the other officers well, even if their characters get far too much screentime...The film is direted by George Miller, and was, shockingly, his FIRST film ever, and man, what a first achievement! The film is breathtakingly and impeccably filmed, and every shot is impressive in some sense (also, if it's gone through any sort of restoration, it's equally impeccable...the film belies its low-budget origins and looks just incredible...it could have been released in 2007 and I wouldn't have very many reservations that it was filmed sometime in the past six months)
So, I'm conflicted: Impeccibly filmed, solidly acted, poorly laid-out.
Sounds like a 7.5/10 to me. (And gets rocked into the 8th spot of the unusually good Ten of 1979)