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In the post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland, one-time Highway Patrol officer Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) has become a drifter scavenging for petrol. An encounter with the Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence) leads Max to a bric-a-brac fortress where an idealistic tribe led by Pappagallo (Mike Preston) is refining oil and planning to start a new life ‘up north’. Surrounding their camp is an army of grotesque desert warriors led by Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) and his crazed henchman Wez (Vernon Wells). His tribe's defences weakening, Pappagallo agrees to pay Max in petrol upon delivery of a semi-trailer rig capable of transporting the precious stuff. As the battle intensifies, Max is drawn reluctantly into helping Pappagallo's people make a safe escape.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
With ten times the budget and a more clearly defined narrative than the first Mad Max, George Miller and producer Byron Kennedy travelled to Broken Hill and returned with what is quite simply the best action-exploitation film ever made. The influence of Mad Max 2 cannot be overestimated. Besides providing the Italian and Filipino film industries with the inspiration for a decade's worth of rip-offs (Exterminators of the Year 3000, The New Barbarians, 1990 Bronx Warriors, Equalizer 2000 to name a few) this 94 minute exercise in pure cinema re-wrote the rule book for on-screen excitement. The final chase scene has no peer and is unlikely to ever have one. Mad Max 2 is about much more than stunts and visceral thrills. Modelled along classic western and samurai film lines it also has a wicked and consistent sense of humour that begins with Bruce Spence's wonderful turn as the Gyro Captain ('that's my snake, I caught it and I'm gunna eat it') and is maintained even in the incredibly tense escape scene as the mechanic played by Steve J. Spears catches fire while fending off the goons. Compare that with the one-liners in films such as Terminator 2 that stick out like sore thumbs. Magnificently photographed by Dean Semler and featuring heavy-leather costumes that would become standard attire at gay nightclubs the world over, Mad Max 2 is still the most impressive warrior who ever wandered the wasteland. At best it appears Mel Gibson will have a cameo only in Mad Max 4 (well, that's today's rumour anyway!!) If George Miller can recapture the incredible style, pace and atmosphere of this entry he won't need him.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:

Mad Max 2 is a stunning, stunt-driven action film that set the standard for car chase stunts 20 years ago – and has not been bettered, not even by the explosive truck-n-car chase in The Fast and The Furious – which no doubt owes a debt to Mad Max 2. The last 25 minutes is an extended series of white-knuckle action pieces as the forces of good and evil do battle to the death. Made four years after Mad Max, this is not so much a sequel as a development of the original Mad Max ideas. (And the score is more ‘developed’, too; same Brian May, in better form.) The script has jumped forward in time, more than four years, we feel, to an even bleaker world – designed on a much bigger budget! Mel Gibson’s face matured just enough in the four years to make him less baby-faced and more like the man we got to know on screen since those early days. The plot is unburdened by complexities other than logistical, and has many screen cousins; but the execution and the design – the whole look and feel of the film – give it all serious value as a thrilling, dramatic, unpredictable and eye-glueing action classic. The characters are defined by their appearance in a way that avoids the obvious – for one thing, they are all brilliantly inventive with their accessories! The weaponry is from a unique world of its own, and the only thing that is familiar – apart from the rubber tyres on the vehicles – is the English language. Unique in execution, Mad Max 2 is a fantasy in screen violence that challenges and pushes the boundaries of the action genre – to this day.

Review by Louise Keller:
It only takes a few minutes for us to make the leap into an inspirationally wacko futuristic world, where characters seem to have been drawn by a cartoonist with a vivid imagination. George Miller's energising sequel stands out as one of the all-time landmark films of Australian cinema, and certainly one of the most memorable. Mel Gibson's Max is no longer grounded by family, and has been swallowed up by the dusty outback, where survival is everything, and he shares his life with his loyal, trusty cattledog. Watch for the look on the dog's face as Max digs into a can of Dinki Di dog food! Gibson's very handsome features are showcased in every frame; he is credible to the hilt and rivals a young Clint Eastwood. Marvellously innovative characters – from Bruce Spence's lanky simpleton pilot to the mohawked S&M lover Vernon to the Feral Kid - stimulate our imaginations and - although the violence may be high grade, like that of Starship Troopers, it is mostly over the top. The incongruity of finding a musical box that plays Happy Birthday, in the middle of the desert is one of many memorable moments that you will never forget. Striking production design and an edgy score with harrowing themes complement the action driven narrative, and the final 25 minutes is a showcase of stunt sequences that will have you glued to your seat. Huge explosions, daring stunts as steel crumples under tyres… thrilling, breathtaking action from start to finish. The road stunts are as daring as they come and that moment when the Feral Kid reaches for the shotgun shell on the bonnet of the speeding truck is one that will haunt you in later moments. Filled with laconic humour and outlandish violence, Mad Max 2 (aka The Road Warrior) is a bikie road fantasy set in the desert and captured by our imaginations.

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Read our MAD MAX reviews

MAD MAX 2 1981 (M)

CAST: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Michael Preston, Max Phipps, Vernon Wells, Emil Minty, Kjell Nilsson, Virginia Hey, William Zappa, Steve J. Spears, Syd Heylen

DIRECTOR: George Miller

PRODUCER: Byron Kennedy

SCRIPT: Terry Hayes, George Miller, Brian Hannant


EDITOR: Michael Balson, David Stiven, Tim Wellburn

MUSIC: Brian May

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Graham ‘Grace’ Walker

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RE-RELEASE DATE: Sydney -December 13 – 19, 2001 (Cremorne Orpheum); Melbourne – December 30, 2001 – January 6, 2002 (Astor St Kilda); double bill with Mad Max on new Panavision prints. Later in other cities.

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