“…exploding on the highway like a slug from a .45, True Death: 400 horsepower of maximum performance…”—Iggy Pop with White Zombie
The loss of a family member or a close friend is always a life event that wears heavy on your heart. Memories, stories, and smiles are what we have to make our loved ones live on. The passing by natural causes is more forgiving on the survivors’ feelings as it’s a normal stage of life. However, when they are brutally murdered, a feeling of hate ignites within us as we seek answers, closure, and justice in the name of the victim…and revenge against the culprit. Today’s feature examines exactly this circumstance in the cult favorite, action/road flick, Mad Max (1979) which was released 36 years ago today in Australia.
Mad Max opens in an apocalyptic, dystopian future along the ruthless, gang-infested highways of rural Australia. The Main Force Patrol (MFP) pursues the Nightrider; Vince Gil of Body Melt (1993), a member of a highway gang terrorizing the local community during a national fuel shortage. They fail to arrest Nightrider (whose dialogue includes lyrics from AC/DC) after the death of one of their rookies. Max, Mel Gibson of Machete Kills (2013), is the top pursuit officer assigned to the case. Max, in his super charged patrol car, The Interceptor, chases Nightrider resulting in the latter’s death by vehicle accident.
Nightrider’s death infuriates his old gang, now led by Toecutter, Hugh Keays-Byrne of Farscape (2001), and seeks revenge against Max and his partner Goose, Steve Bisley of The Great Gatsby (2013). The gang begins an onslaught of terror and mayhem to all they come across and are successful in killing Max’s wife, child, and Goose for retribution. Max, now a shell of the man he used to be and with nothing else to lose, takes the law into his own hands aiming to destroy the gang in the name of justice where the legal system failed.
Mad Max was directed by George Miller (then an ER doctor) of The Witches of Eastwick (1987) and penned by Miller and James McCausland (only feature length credit) which was loosely inspired by A Boy and His Dog (1975). Mad Max was filmed with a meager budget of approximately $350,000, but by 1982, it had raked in $100,000,000–not a bad investment for producers. This Australian independent feature also made Gibson a household name, leading to the opportunity to be one of the most demanded actors in Hollywood (before his Anti-Semitic rants and personal drama). The success of Mad Max also birthed sequels with Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), a video game in 1990, and TV mini-series, Mad Max Motion Comic (2013).
Mad Max may have had a limited budget, but it delivered big with several car chases/crashes, and adrenaline infused action, while exploring themes of social decay, revenge, camaraderie, importance of harmonious family life, and instinctual territorial justice from our leather clad, fast driving antihero. Mad Max is a fun, high octane road movie (a nod to early American muscle car flicks of the decade) with top notch cinematography from a young, bare- boned production crew that exhibited lots of grit (guts, not the Southern breakfast delicacy) with innovative camera coverage.
Overall, Mad Max is an important film to view as it shows what a little money can do, the importance of working hard, and having an independent vision. Mad Max is a must see if you are an action junkie, a gear head, or in the need to educate yourself with a 70’s classic.
Revenge is never a course of action to consider. Though it may seem right at the time by taking the law into your own hands, no matter how evil the subject of your intended hate may be, it is never worth it. Let’s not act or react on pure, raw emotion. Let logic, patience, and time mend your wounds, and let the legal system do its job. Justice will prevail, it just takes time. Remember what peaceful visionary, Mahatma Gandhi shared, “There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.”