In 1979 a low-budget Australian film called Mad Max was released starring an almost unheard of actor named Mel Gibson. Made on a tiny budget, the film would go onto to become a box office success, leading to the option for follow-up films being taken. In 1981, it’s sequel, the more modestly budgeted ($4m) Mad Max 2 (titled The Road Warrior in the USA) introduced the world to the modern action film and set Gibson on a path to super-stardom along with taking $23m at the worldwide box office.
Following World War III, the Earth is a barren, desolate wasteland. Small gangs of scavengers fight over the remaining gasoline. Max (Gibson) is the road warrior of the title, is a solo fighter who stumbles upon a gasoline-rich small community who ask for his help to defend them against a violent band of marauders. Setting out with his trusty dog, Max must run a dangerous gauntlet of villainous hunters.
The Mad Max series has inspired countless action films, not to mention defined what a post-apocalyptic world should look like. The Road Warrior‘s setting, an Australian desert creates a perfect environment for the films’ action. All the sets are made from broken and partially destroyed modern technology, which creates a believable if slightly bonkers atmsophere throughout The Road Warrior. With the sets all adhering to one coherent idea of a destroyed world, all the film needed was protagonists of equal impressiveness.
Everyone in The Road Warrior has his or her own unique style, everything from cowboys, to samurais to leather-clad behemoths. It’s a menagerie of the weird and bizarre and at it’s core is the eponymous hero, standing tall as a stoic beacon of heroism in a devastated world. Gibson, like a modern cowboy skulks through proceedings barely uttering a word, but dealing with marauders like a latter-day Clint Eastwood. It’s no wonder he went on to land a role in Lethal Weapon as his raw natural charisma is in full force in The Road Warrior and it is this that grounds the frankly astounding action scenes.
The final third of The Road Warrior is basically one enormous car chase scene as Max runs the gauntlet of everything the marauders can throw at him. Set to the blistering duel-soundtrack of a score that wouldn’t be out of place in a horror film and the sound of classic cars revving and exploding, The Road Warrior is one completely overwhelming and oppressive film. The violence is raw and brutal as is common with a lot of Australian-based films and perfectly compliments the incredible atmosphere of a post-apocalyptic wasteland. An absolute classic, The Road Warrior is the archetypal modern action film and a launch pad for an entire sub-genre of films.