Mad Max, George Miller (1979)

Wow. By contemporary action-movie standards, this is practically a Disney flick. I’d always assumed this was a revenge-fantasy bloodbath, and so was surprised to find that it actually takes an hour and a half to piss Mel Gibson off, and then he gets only fifteen minutes to hunt down the bad guys. And do you know what he does when he finds them? He runs four of them off the road into a river, shoots one in self-defense as the guy’s about to run him over, and watches as another is run over by a truck. It’s all so quaint and delicate, as if the filmmakers finally couldn’t stomach the idea of a law enforcement officer committing murder, even if it’s to revenge the horrible deaths of his best friend, wife, and child. Only in the execution of the very last thug is there a hint of madness, and that happens off-screen. We’ve come a long way, baby. Here in the 21st century, this flick would make even a toddler yawn.

Along with its charming scruples, the movie also provides pleasure on the technical level as a masterpiece of low-budget filmmaking. You can just tell that all the interiors were done at someone’s mom’s house, and the exteriors off in such remote locations that there was no need to worry about a car, plane, dog, or donkey showing up to mosey through and wreck the shot.

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