It probably sounds crazy for a film fan who studied film for three years and has been into them, and especially the oddities around the edges, for at least the past 15 years, but until now I had never seen Mad Max.
I put it down to my general dislike of Mel Gibson and anything with his name on (and this began long before Passion of the Christ) – something about him always irked me and so I’d never seen this before.
Going in I knew this the basics, Mel plays a cop in the near future and he goes a bit mad and is called Max – and that it’s an Australian b-movie, complete with all the tropes that go with that, including crazy car chases in the outback and some ill-fitting if somehow at the same time seemingly appropriate design choices.
From the start it was clear that my expectations weren’t wrong – in the first five minutes we go from a cop with a big gun spying on a naked couple romping in the bush to a full on car chase with flips, rolls and smashing through caravans.
This sets the tone that we are certainly in exploitation (or possibly Ozploitation) movie land – and all this before Max make his big arrival.
Or at least his arrival, he turns up in his ‘Interceptor’ (the other cops only get to drive ‘Pursuit’ cars), marking Max out as something a bit different from the others. However, in terms of what he does, his character starts off fairly unremarkable (other than the fact he is shot as if he’s the hero) and from here things are not totally as expected.
For one, there is a whole background to the character I was not expecting, which, while by no means deep, at least shows him to be more than a simple driving and shooting machine.
This occurs in a series of scenes with his wife and child which in many such exploitation or b-movies would put the brakes on proceedings.
Here, however, whenever it seemed like the film was going to fall into the trap of promising big car chases or explosions but giving us people talking about them, it would soon kick in to a car chase, or a motorcycle stunt sequence or some other actual action packed happening.
The action sequences, like the whole film, still have the sense of being b-movie but, are top-notch for the budget and size of production, and throughout you have a sense that this is not an American film but an Australian one. I can’t put a finger on exactly why this is, but there is a different sense to Australia’s exploitation movies than those made on the other side of the Pacific.
This ‘Ozploitation’ style ends up creating a film that has all the best elements of exploitation cinema, but actually seems to deliver on more of the promises than many of its American counterparts.
While no one is ever going to claim this is a technical masterpiece, it is a sure-fire rollercoaster ride of a movie featuring everything you could want – bad bad guys, bad good guys, fast cars, faster bikes and some good crashes and explosions with just enough back story to at least give it a vague reason for all happening.
All in all a good hour and a half’s entertainment, despite the presence of Mel Gibson, who I still can’t get on with.
If you want to find out more about Ozploitation I would heartily recommend the documentary Not Quite Hollywood, here’s the trailer: