Mad Max 2 (1981)

Rating: B+

Dir: George Miller
Star: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Mike Preston, Kjell Nilsson
a.k.a. The Road Warrior

The enormous success of the original inevitably led to a sequel two years later, and it’s one of the rare cases where the cinematic child far surpassed the parent. There is a swift, efficient opening which, in less than five minutes, both recaps Mad Max and provides a bleak, global backdrop of anarchy against which everything subsequently occurs. Max (Gibson) roams the wastelands of Australia, but hears of a place where he can get all the gasoline he wants. However, the refinery is under siege by Lord Humungus (Nilsson) and his crew, so the inhabitants can’t leave, lacking a tanker for their precious fuel. Max agrees to help (at first in exchange for fuel) both bringing a vehicle to the compound, and then driving it through the outlaws outside…

The film is a masterpiece of economy, drawing characters with broad, effective strokes, and pitting them against each other in post-apocalyptic mayhem. Right from the start, the car-chase sequences set the standard, and the finale pursuit is, even 25 years later, among the best ever captured on film. Yet it’s interesting how Max regains the humanity he lost in the first film, and agrees to help those representing what’s left of civilization much more than he has to. In some ways, I was reminded of Ash in Army of Darkness, who is a similarly selfish hero, though Max is nowhere near the same coward. The supporting characters are equally memorable, particularly the gyrocopter captain (Spence) and the feral kid (Emil Minty) whom Max befriends with the help of a music-box. Often imitated, this still stands as among the best of its kind: “You can run – but you can’t hide!”