Mad Max 2 (1981)

Sex :
Violence :
Director George Miller Reviewer :
Writers Terry Hayes, George Miller, Brian Hannat
Starring Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Vernon Wells, Kjell Nilsson
Genre Post Apocalyptic
Tagline When all that's left is one last chance, pray that he's still out there ... somewhere!
15 second cap Max needs fuel and food, naturally there's going to be mayhem when he decides to barter for them


“Greetings from The Humongous! The Lord Humongous! The Warrior of the Wasteland! The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla!” – Toady

Set quite some time after events in Mad Max, Max now has a hint of grey at the temples, and Australian society has completely broken down into lawlessness and chaos due to the lack of petrol. Sort of like when the Grand Final is on down in Melbourne. Max is now a scavenger, combing the back roads for petrol and food, fighting off inbreds, and I guess avoiding Penrith like any sane person would do. Our ruggard hero, for want of a better term, gets the drop on an ultra light plane pilot after almost falling for an ambush. The Gyro Captain wasn’t reckoning on Max’s blue heeler, affectionately named “dog”. To save his own life – Max is slightly miffed – the Pilot mentions that he knows where Max can get all the petrol his heart could desire.

The Pilot, this dude doesn’t have a name, leads Max to a cliff top overlooking a working oil refinery. Max can indeed get all the petrol he wants, but the only problem is the marauding gangs laying siege to the refinery and having something to offer the current refinery owners in exchange for the fuel. Naturally Max works out how to get into the refinery and makes a deal in return for as much “juice” as he can carry. This turns out not to be as easy as Max had envisaged in the corporate brainstorming session, and he gets swept up in another plan.

Coming two years after Mad Max had proved a commercial success in North America, albeit with dubbed yank accents, Mad Max 2 was made on a far larger budget with far more impressive locations and vehicles. George Miller nailed his vision with his first shotgun ride with Max, and in the second outing the Director is out to push the overall themes onto a much larger canvas. Max is still the anti-hero and society, as represented by the refinery clan, is still waiting for that elusive hero. They want Max to fill in the role, but Max has left his cape in his other interceptor and is only out for himself and, at a pinch, the dog.

Once again Miller ladles on an impressive high octane start to his film to get us all in the mood. Max is tooling down some forgotten stretch of highway with a number of marauders on his arse. This once again is shot at high speed, with the action hitting warp factor nine out of the blocks. Max proves more than a match for his pursuers and Miller’s early gambit sets up what should be the central concept of the movie, the conflict between the former MFP officer and the improbably named Wez. To be honest, Director Miller drops the ball on this one, with the concept popping up at least three times during the course of Mad Max 2 but not providing the central narrative most movies of this kind would have crafted events around.

This movie could quite honestly be the greatest ever sequel made in Australia, and can hold it's head up high in international company

For the rest of the film Miller is quite happy to pay lip service to a few themes but is more interested in getting a variety of weapons, vehicles, and exotic characters into the melting pot as soon and as often as possible. There is a plot going down here but it pretty much serves only to string together the battle scenes that rage every ten minutes or so, and for the entire final third of the movie. Once again Miller is on top of his game filming action scenes with those low level shots in use as they were in Mad Max, and glosses over any attempt at emotionally rounding out his central characters. Pappagallo’s, (the head of the refinery people), rant to Max during the second act is particularly painful in this regard.

In terms of themes, besides the whole hero thing, it’s a dry old argument at the Miller household. Society is good, the refinery folk even wear white outfits, while the marauders as the representatives of chaos are only interested in violence, rape, and destroying stuff. Miller doesn’t even apologise for his lack of convincing underpinnings in Mad Max 2, hell they would take up valuable screen time that could be used for showing a car exploding or something. As a bloke I'm high fiving my mates over this development.

On the whole, the approach in Mad Max 2 is far lighter than that used in Mad Max, which pretty much brought the horror word into play. Miller still has the violence factor ramped up and has some horror elements happening in Mad Max 2, but tends to view the whole thing as something of a hoot rather than the out and out darkness descending that the original movie presented us with. I’m never of the opinion that treating the breakdown of society as a chance to toss a few beers around and hit a few punch lines is a good thing. Serve it up dark and with commentary about present day society dripping venomously from its fangs for mine.

Mad Max 2 presents one of the true oddities of cinematic history in the form of Humongous Lord of the Wasteland. Here we have a character wearing a hockey mask, only having a few strands of hair left, and maybe having a deformity hidden behind the mask. Anyone reminded of another character? And before I start receiving emails from yank teen males outraged by this, Mad Max 2 was made well before Crystal Lake’s favourite son picked up a hockey mask as the result of an in joke between Canadian shot members. Did in fact Steve Miner steal the concept that has become central to Friday the 13th from ? Draw your own conclusion there. On the bright side, Humongous is able to voice his feelings as opposed to his North American cousin, but on a whole they still revolve around killing a whole bunch of people who shouldn’t be on his turf.

Mel Gibson (Max) reprieves his role from the previous movie and has certainly added a whole bunch of depth to his character. Gibson is able to convey a whole range of emotion via a glance, which was missing in the first movie. For those attacking Gibson due to showing no emotion over the loss of his dog, he lost his whole family in the previous movie and is presented as shell shocked and withdrawn.

Helping out the mad mayor of Malibu are a whole bunch of exotic characters; strangely Oz cinema is littered with weirdoes and the whole concept is wearing slightly thin for mine. Bruce Spence (the Gyro Captain) is Max’s Falstaff and Spence is up for the role, which is pretty similar to about every other role he has done. Fine comedic performance from Spence. Vernon Wells (Wez) simply plays it over the top and goes for a sort of insane manic thing that works for his character. Finally Kjell Nilsson (Humongous) gets to make towering speeches and drip venom, something Nilsson has no problems delivering on.

For the sharp eyed and bushy tailed there is some T&A but once again it’s not what Miller is spending any valuable screen time on, cars blowing up etc.

Once again Brian May delivered the score, which is the usual May combination of hitting the visuals spot on and being overly melodramatic in places.

I had a lot of fun with Mad Max 2 as our anti-hero hit the back roads, battled with various exotic fauna, and generally continued his quest to nothing in particular. Miller catches the mood exactly right and doesn’t let up on the action from first frame till last frame. Themes and the like are for girly movies and Miller isn’t interested in those demographics with the continued adventures of Max in the wastelands. Not as strong as the first movie in the trilogy but scoring spectacularly well with the amount of things blown up and the weapons in use.

At the time, Mad Max 2 was the most expensive Australian film ever produced, and hopes were high following the critical acclaim Mad Max gained through the North American market. Contributing to the cost was the most expensive set ever constructed for a local production, the desert refinery compound built in Broken Hill, New South Wales. Naturally that also became the most expensive set destroyed in an Australian movie as the largest explosion ever created for a home-brewed flick totally destroyed it. Awesome stuff indeed and they had one take to get it right.

I would recommend Mad Max 2 to male readers, this is very much a bloke’s flick, though a young Mel charging around in leathers may have some support amongst female viewers. The film doesn’t attempt to engage you mentally but is quite happy to relish in what it is, an action movie with enough violence to happily spread on your morning toast. Max is still mad after all these years and are we ever pleased he is. Pity about the third movie, really.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

  The ultimate Aussie action movie is heading down the highway at you doing warp factor nine.