Picks and Pans Review: Mad Max

updated 07/25/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/25/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Viewing this film is a lot like opening up one of those "Secret Origins" comic books that tell how Superman or Spider-Man got his start in the superhero business. Such efforts, though not as well crafted as their descendants, offer insights into the characters' past. The "prequel" to the surprise 1982 hit The Road Warrior, this 1979 Australian film had a limited run in the States. But thanks to Mel Gibson's triumph in The Year of Living Dangerously, Max is back on the road again. Gibson, in the title role, plays a leather-clad highway patrolman in a futuristic Australian Outback. He is driven to a frenzy of vengeance by a gang of bikers who attack his wife, son and best friend. As in The Road Warrior, his weapon is a souped-up auto, which sets up chase scenes that make The Dukes of Hazzard seem like a hayride—a feat director George Miller engineered with a meager $1 million budget. Dramatically, however, the film is inconsistent. And it has been dubbed, turning the Australian dialect into a form of Southwestern American, which means Mad Max has little of the flavor of The Road Warrior. (Gibson reportedly plans to return to the role in a sequel after he finishes a Mutiny on the Bounty remake.) (R)

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