Miami Herald, The (FL) - May 25, 1982

Author: BILL COSFORD Herald Movie Critic

A cultured voice does the voice-over, describing a post- Holocaust civilization given over to tribes of automotive paladins who rape, loot and (worse) steal gas. The voice tells us that the speaker, now old, remembers many things: "...Most of all, I remember the Road Warrior, the man we called Max."

It's a weird thought. In a film that didn't mean to be goofy, you figure they would have written it the other way around -- "Max, the man we called the Road Warrior." I mean, his given name is Max, not Road Warrior, so...

And yet the movie isn't goofy -- just that first line, and the last couple of lines. The stuff in between is violent and strange, successful in creating an arid nightmare world of the future, superbly edited and topped off by what is certainly the single most frenzied chase scene in the movies .

It's all from Australia, too; the Smokey and the Bandit gang ought to be cringing about now.

But they saw it coming. The Road Warrior is actually a sequel to a low-budget sleeper of a couple of years ago called Mad Max, which went on to make around $100 million worldwide. In Mad Max, Mel Gibson (who went on to star in Gallipoli) played a 1990s highway patrolman on duty along roads where cars were weapons. It was sort what "CHiPs" might be like if Dirty Harry were running the outfit, and there was plenty of twisted metal by the end.

Gibson returns in The Road Warrior, his character having been rendered a cynical loner by the violent climax of Mad Max. He is no longer an arm of the law; he is instead wandering about a lawless countryside in his supercharged Dodge, his dog literally riding shotgun in the back seat. He's a good guy, but only barely; when he stops to help the victim of an assault by the local punks, it's not so much to render succor as it is to barter for high-test.

Gas is hard to come by in the desert. The only ones who seem to have enough of it are the relatively peaceful folk (their flamethrowers are for self-defense) who live in a refinery-turned-fortress. Outside, the punks -- led by "The Humungus" and inspired by Wez, a sort of New Wave Killer Kowalski -- buzz around annoyingly, throw taunts and take the occasional toasting from the parapets. The punks want the gas, the decent folk want to leave, and it's a stand-off until Max arrives.

In the spirit of these adventures, he doesn't really want to help but must eventually be pressed into service. He has a Sancho Panza in Gyro Captain, who trains snakes and flies a homemade helicopter, and a mascot in Feral Boy, an eight-year- old who speaks in grunts and wields a razor-edged boomerang. Once the gang is together, action p(TV)oceeds apace.

The Road Warrior shows what happens when filmmakers learn something on their way to the sequel. Though the action here follows a predictable course (it's high-tech Shane), the milieu is fascinating, the story sophisticated where Mad Max was crude.

"Sophisticated" must be taken advisedly, however, for what we have here is a tony ya-hoo movie . Beneath the veneer of stylish scenes and character originals, Smokey is still chasing the Bandit. He's just doing it better, faster.

And with that touch of style. Director George Miller (who got his feature start with Mad Max) throws in his odd visions regularly: Pigs and chickens scuttle about the refinery, men scoot off in vehicles of demented design, the feral boy darts
from his tunnel for a gawk at the action, the dog looks on with old man's eyes. It's unsettling -- if The Road Warrior weren't a car-chase movie , it might be truly frightening.

Two final notes: The Road Warrior is similar in physical style to a 1975 film adaption of Harlan Ellison's A Boy and His Dog; if Miller saw that film (few but cult-film fans have), subtract a point or two for originality. And: Road Warrior may be too violent for some tastes; it's worth sitting through to get a look at the dazzling stunts of the last half-hour, but it's still grim.

Movie Review The Road Warrior (R) **1/2 .... CAST: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Vernon Wells, Emil Minty, Mike Preston, Kjell Nilsson, Virginia Hey. CREDITS: Director: George Miller Producer: Byron Kennedy Screenwriters: Terry Hayes, George Miller with Brian Hannant Cinematographer: Dean Semler Music: Brian May ..... A Warner Bros. release ..... Brief nudity, brief implicit sex, considerable violence and gore. ..... At the Hialeah Cinema, Miracle, Omni, Normandy, 163rd Street, Ambassador, Campbell Square, Cutler Ridge, Kendale Lakes, Lauderhill, Movie City, Movies at Pompano, Cinema 4, Coral Springs Mall, Movies at Plantation, Thunderbird Drive-In. ..... **** Excellent*** 1/2 Very Good*** Good ** 1/2 Average** Fair* Poor Zero: Worthless

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