A thundering juggernaut of a movie and one of the few correct answers to the question, “name a sequel that surpasses the original”.
After the low-budget nihilism of the original movie, director George Miller moved up a gear and the result was this violent, slick and exhilarating action thriller that accelerated star Mel Gibson’s progress to superstardom.
In the not-too-distant future, after a disastrous war over oil, and with his police days now well behind him, Max (Gibson) has become a desert wanderer with few ties to the world.
His once-proud black V8 interceptor, the scourge of the highway mobs, is now a battered relic.
His family is dead, his only companion is a smart and ferocious blue heeler called “dog”, and the desert is a realm of motorised gladiators who will kill anyone for petrol.
Fuel is worth a thousand times more than any precious metal, and rampaging hordes roam the highways murdering and pillaging for the dwindling supplies.
When Max is bushwhacked by the pilot of a gyrocopter (Bruce Spence), the dog turns the tables.
The Gyro Captain offers to show Max a place where he can get all the petrol he wants – a desert refinery run by a tribe of peace-loving settlers.
As Max and the Gyro Captain arrive, the fortified refinery is besieged by a murderous gang of vermin led by a giant man in a hockey mask called Lord Humungus (Kjell Nilsson).
Max makes a deal with Pappagallo (Mike Preston), the leader of the settlers. He will bring them a prime mover for their petrol tanker in return for as much gas as he can carry.
After the job is done, Max is wounded as he tries to outrun Wez (Vernon Wells), the chief warrior for Lord Humungus.
He returns to the fort and joins the settlers in their last-ditch run for freedom. As he drives the tanker out, the Feral Kid (Emil Minty), a small boy who idolises Max, jumps on the back of the truck.
Gibson is appropriately charismatic as the introspective hero, director George Miller doesn’t take his foot off the accelerator for a second, and the ingeniously designed and staged road action is stunning.
The first Mad Max (1979) was made fast and cheap, an experience that Miller found very frustrating. Its success meant that he could make the sequel with much more money and time and much grander ambitions.
Renowned for its near-wordless script, Gibson’s performance here is just one long feral, guttural growl.
Steve J Spears