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Not only was the ROAD WARRIOR (1981) one of the truly great action movies of the 1980s, but it has also aged extremely well. The basic dystopic future vision seems as possible or maybe even more possible now than when I saw this during its original run, and the action sequences haven't dated one iota. The relentless 20 minutes that close the movie are still the greatest road battle sequence ever committed to film, and may in fact never be topped. The closest I can think of is the freeway chase in Matrix 2, but they got to cheat with both super-powers and CGI tricks, and still couldn't match George Miller's intense precision. In addition to the rare cinematic skill on display, the final road chase is fully motivated and in fact necessitated by the logics of the script, which adds to the nail-biting attention it commands. Everything rides on that trailer rig breaking through, without it the whole movie falls to pieces.
Of course, everyone knows this already, and I don't really have much to add regarding the second Mad Max instalment, except to testify on its lingering greatness. One thing I hadn't really reflected on earlier is how consistent the movie is in its presentation of the lone survivalist as reluctant hero. Mel Gibson is in every scene in the movie, yet he rarely says a word and hardly ever changes his expression of contained torment. According to IMDB he only has 16 lines of dialogue in the entire 90-minute movie, which sounds extraordinary but may be true. This is not style for style's sake but a reflection of a story so thoroughly trimmed down to the raw essentials that there isn't a wasted moment in it. Literally everything you see in The Road Warrior, every line and event, is there for a discernible reason.
This is how action movies were made once upon a time*; no useless padding out of the playtime with unwarranted subplots (see Looper review), but a tight roller coaster ride that grabs you by the neck from the start and doesn't let you go until you got your money's worth. Let's bring it back. 8/10
NOTE: after writing the above I see that an 'independent variation' on the Mad Max trilogy is in post-production, directed by Miller and with Tom Hardy replacing Mel Gibson as Max Rockatansky.
*The same applies to another dystopic action classic from the same year, John Carpenter's Escape From New York, whose first hour or so displays a supremely tight flow.