Archive for Bruce Spence

Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Riding a camel-drawn wagon across the Australian desert, Max (Mel Gibson) is attacked by a pilot flying a Transavia PL-12 Airtruk, who manages to steal his belongings and his vehicle. Max continues on foot and finally stumbles upon the only nearby human outpost in the wasteland that remains—the seedy community of Bartertown, founded and nominally run by the ruthless Aunty Entity (Tina Turner).

In Bartertown, electricity, vehicles, functioning industrial age technology—all almost unheard of in this post-apocalyptic world—are made possible by a crude methane refinery, fueled by pigs’ feces, using a weathered semi tractor as the electricity generator. The refinery is located under Bartertown and is operated by the smart, diminutive Master (Angelo Rossitto), who is harnessed to his enormously strong, but dim-witted bodyguard known as Blaster (Paul Larsson). Together, “Master Blaster” hold an uneasy power-truce with Aunty for control of Bartertown. Master, however, is beginning to exploit his position with energy “embargoes,” challenging Aunty’s leadership. She is furious with him but cannot challenge him publicly, as Master is the only one with the technical know-how to operate the machinery that powers Bartertown. The controlled chaos of Bartertown is maintained by a set of inflexible laws, including one that states that no contract can be broken, for any reason. The punishment for breaking this law is equally inflexible and invoked with the simple phrase, “bust a deal, face the wheel.”

Entity recognizes Max as a resourceful (if disposable) fighter, and strikes a deal with him to provoke a duel with and kill Blaster in the “Thunderdome,” a gladiatorial arena where conflicts are resolved by a duel to the death, turning what is arguably a political assassination into a lawful act. Max goes to Underworld, where he befriends a convict who was imprisoned for killing a pig in order to feed his children, and thus nicknamed Pig Killer (Robert Grubb). Max then finds his vehicle in Master Blaster’s possession, and confronts them, resulting in the necessary challenge to enter Thunderdome. The rules of Thunderdome, as chanted by onlookers crowding the arena, are simple and singular—”two men enter, one man leaves.” After a difficult match, Max defeats Blaster, but refuses to kill him when he discovers that Blaster is a man with a developmental disability. An enraged Aunty has Blaster executed and invokes the law since Max broke his deal with her. The wheel turns out to be a large, spinning metal disc (similar to a Wheel of Fortune) with an arrow pointing to one of several consequences. Possible consequences include Death, Hard Labour, Acquittal, Gulag, Aunty’s Choice, Spin Again, Forfeit Goods, Underworld, Amputation, and Life Imprisonment. When spun for Max, it lands on “Gulag.” He is cast out of Bartertown and exiled to the desert wasteland, strapped to the back of a horse. The horse runs with an initial whipping & chases a bottle of water strapped in front of its face.

The story radically shifts gears at this point. Some time later, Max, who has gotten beyond Thunderdome but is near death due to exposure to the hostile conditions, is saved by a group of children led by Savannah Nix (Helen Buday). The children, hardened to the desert environment, are survivors (or the children of survivors) of a nearby Qantas Boeing 747 plane crash, and have formed a sort of tribal community in the sheltered desert oasis in which they live. Clinging to their hopes of rescue, they keep their fading memories of the past civilization alive in the form of ritualistic spoken “tells” which hinge on the return of a messianic “Captain Walker” who will repair their shattered aircraft and return them to civilization. The “tell” explains that Flight Captain G.L. Walker at one point took most of the surviving adults to seek help, promising they would be back to rescue the rest, but never returned. Max’s age and physical resemblance to Walker make the children believe that he has indeed returned to take them to “Tomorrow-morrow Land,” or back to civilization as it once was. After nursing him back to health, they are shocked to hear Max’s account of the dystopic state of the world and become angry at his insistence that they all remain living in the relative safety of the oasis, knowing that the only “civilization” within reach is the rough and hellish Bartertown.

Some of the children decide to leave anyway, determined to find “Tomorrow-morrow land,” the mythic place they believe their parents left them to find. Max goes after them.

The third act begins as Max catches up with them at the outskirts of Bartertown. They sneak in, intent on finding Master. Without Blaster to protect him, the dwarfish Master is little more than Aunty’s slave. Max and the children free him (with the assistance of Pig Killer, who also escapes), but alert the guards, and a frenetic chase ensues, resulting in Bartertown’s methane factory becoming damaged and causing explosions, ending at the hideout of the same pilot that attacked Max in the beginning of the movie (played by Bruce Spence, who played the autogyro captain in Mad Max 2). Max coerces him to help them escape in the Transavia PL-12 Airtruk, but there is too much weight and not enough runway between them and the attackers’ vehicles, so Max takes a truck and drives it in front of the airplane, smashing a hole in the roadblock enabling the children to escape. Max is found by Aunty, and, having earned her respect, has his life spared.

The story shifts to many years later, when the much older children are seen in the ruins of a destroyed Sydney, lit up by thousands of fires and lights. Savannah, the leader of the children, recites a nightly “tell” of their journey.

This movie provides additional back story to the original Mad Max and Mad Max 2, showing a nuclear war following the energy crisis referenced in the beginning of Mad Max 2.

REVIEW:

 The final entry in the Mad Max saga (though there is supposed to be a 4th film in production). Some have argues this is the weakest entry in the franchise, while others have said it is the best.

Depending on how you look at it, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome can go either way. For me, I think it is the best of the 3. It is the most exciting, action packed, and drama-less of the bunch, which is really what I wanted from the first two.

On the other hand, the lack of road battles took a bit out of it for me, but that’s not something I can’t get over.

The action here is what really moves the picture along. In the first two films, there was some action, but this time around the action is center stage with the drama taking a backseat. Isn’t that what you really want out of an action movie?

The cast is all Australian, except for Tina Turner. Don’t get me wrong, Turner does a great job as the villainous Aunty Enitty, she just sort of sticks out as the 1 American in this cast. Of course, in most of Gibson’s films, he’s usually the only Australian, so I guess it really isn’t that big of a deal.

Mel Gibson had strong performances in the first films, but this one he seems as if he just phoned it in. I can’t tell you how much I hate it when it appears as if actors just show up for th paycheck. Have some pride in your craft, for goodness sakes, or don’t show up to work!

Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome is best known for the Thunderdome scene, but the fact is it is only seen on that one scene. I would have liked for there to be more Thunderdome, especially since it is in the freakin’ title, but that isn’t anything that can’t be looked over. 

My final verdict on this film is that it is the best entry in this franchise, but it does have its issues. Does that mean you should avoid it like the plague? Far from it. This is the most entertaining of the franchise and fully worth a viewing, so go check it out!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

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Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on November 14, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Mad Max 2 begins with a prologue backstory; a narrator informs us that the world has “crumbled and…the cities have exploded;” uprisings and social disorder due to energy shortages have destabilized the country; and that “two mighty warrior tribes” had gone to war. The crumbling remnants of the government attempt to restore some form of order, but life has become a “whirlwind of looting and a firestorm of fear, in which ‘men began to feed on men.”

The film itself begins as Max Rockatansky, now “a burnt out, desolate” shell of a man, clashes with a team of marauders. Clad in his torn and dirty leather police uniform, Max roams the desert in a scarred, black, supercharged V-8 Pursuit Special, scavenging for food and, especially, petrol, which has become a precious commodity. He also has a pet dog (an Australian Cattle Dog), who has been his only companion, and a rare functioning firearm — a sawn-off shotgun — the ammunition for which is also scarce.

After driving off a gang, led by biker warrior Wez (Vernon Wells), Max collects the petrol from one of their wrecked vehicles. As Max continues to comb the desert wastelands, he comes upon a seemingly abandoned autogyro and investigates. The autogyro’s pilot (Bruce Spence) has in fact set a trap with a venomous snake; but Max and his dog outwit and overpower the gyro captain. To stay alive, the pilot tells Max about a small working oil refinery nearby in the wasteland.

Encamped on a cliff overlooking the oil refinery, Max watches as a gang of marauders piloting a motley collection of cars and motorbikes besieges the compound. They are led by the grim, charismatic warrior called “Lord Humungus” (Kjell Nilsson) — a large, muscular man with a hockey mask over his disfigured face, who commands a vicious, rag-tag band of biker-berserkers. Humungus’ speeches to the settlers, exhorting them to surrender, are articulate and convincing; he uses his eloquence as psychological warfare, and a number of the settlers begin to believe his seemingly benign offers.

The next morning four settlers’ vehicles roar out of the refinery. The marauders chase them down and kill or capture their occupants. After the Gyro Captain and Max witness one such brutal treatment, Max goes down to the wrecked vehicles and slays one biker. A critically-wounded settler is still clinging to life, and Max strikes a bargain with him: he will return the man to the refinery compound in exchange for petrol. However, the deal falls through when the man dies following Max’s entry into the compound. Facing death, Max is spared when – at that moment – the marauders return.

Lord Humungus uses a public address system to offer the settlers and their leader Papagallo (Michael Preston) safe passage out of the wastelands if they leave him the facility and fuel reserves. Max has an alternative bargain for Papagallo: he will retrieve an abandoned Mack semi-truck he came across earlier in return for petrol and his freedom. This vehicle would be sufficient to haul their tanker-load of fuel out of the wastelands. The besieged settlers accept Max’s proposal, but retain his car. Max sneaks out of the compound at night, carrying fuel for the battered truck and the autogyro. He is later joined, though, by his “prisoner” the Gyro Captain and the “Feral Kid” who wields a sharp-edged steel boomerang, and who has accepted Max.

With air support provided by the Gyro Captain, Max returns to the abandoned semi and drives it back to the compound, despite the efforts of Humungus and his men to stop the vehicle. The settlers invite Max to escape with the group, but the psychologically-scarred Max opts to collect his petrol and leave. As Max tries to break through the siege and is chased down by Wez in Humungus’s nitrous oxide-equipped car, his car is wrecked and he is badly injured, and his dog is killed by a crossbowman. However, by trying to tap into his fuel tanks, the marauders trigger an explosive booby-trap, blowing up his car and discouraging them from searching further. The semi-conscious Max is rescued by the Gyro Captain, who flies him back to the refinery, where the settlers are making hasty preparations to leave.

Despite his injuries, Max insists on driving the repaired truck with the fuel tanker. He leaves the compound in the now heavily-armored truck with the feral kid and several settlers in armored positions on the tanker. With Pappagallo driving an escort vehicle for company, he is pursued by the wasteland warriors. Overhead, the Gyro Captain follows the violent chase in his gyro-copter. While Humungus and his warriors pursue the tanker, the remaining settlers flee the compound in a rag-tag caravan of vehicles, leaving the compound open and undefended. One by one the settlers defending the tanker are killed, as is Pappagallo. The Gyro Captain also crashes as his engine is hit by arrows from a dart gun. Back at the refinery, but intercut with the tanker pursuit, a handful of marauders seize the empty compound, and discover to their misfortune that the refinery is rigged to explode.

Max and the feral kid find themselves alone against the marauders, who continue their savage pursuit. Wez boards the truck and almost slays the two survivors, but a head-on collision with Humungus obliterates both villains. Max loses control of the tanker and it rolls off the side of the road. As the injured Max carries the feral kid from the tanker, he discovers that the contents of the tanker was just sand. The Gyro Captain manages to catch up to Max in his battered gyro copter.

The truck and its trailer were a decoy, allowing the other settlers to escape with their precious fuel in oil drums inside their vehicles. With Papagallo dead, the Gyro Captain succeeds him as their chief, and leads the settlers to the coast, where they establish the “Great Northern Tribe.” Max remains in the desert, once again becoming a drifter, alone in the wasteland, and the narrator ends by saying that was the last time they ever saw Max, but the tribe will be forever grateful to him for ensuring their survival. The narrator also says that when the Gyro Captain passed away, he succeeded him as chief, revealing that the narrator is in fact the feral boy, now a full-grown man, reciting the story.

REVIEW:

 Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior picks up where the original Mad Max left off, only know Max is all but a total loner…a far cry from the caring, family man we were originally introduced to in the first film.

Again, I have to say that this film was lacking in the action department. Sure, there were some brilliant scenes, including the climactic confrontation, but all that seemed to be overshadowed by the filmmaker’s apparent need to take us on some kind of emotional trip.

Now, I did like how we finally got a bit of background on Max, as well as learned what happened since we last saw him. It is true that this is his movie, but if you’re going to go that far and give us some background on one character, why not do it on some of the others. I’m mainly referring to Lord Humungus. The mystery about his background is fine and dandy, but part of me wants to know something…anything…about him.

Casting here isn’t great. Gibson returns as Max, and seems to be more comfortable in the role, but he isn’t really given much to do here. It isn’t his fault, though. I blame the writers.

I did enjoy Bruce Spence as the comic relief, though I almost didn’t recognise him since he looks so different than he does on Legend of the Seeker.

Lord Humungus was the only other part of the cast that was worth watching. Kjell Nilsson gives a masterful performance as the vindictive gang leader who is not only cruel, but also charismatic. A dangerous combination, but one that works.

In the end, what do I have to say about Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior? Well, I expected more road battles and action and not so much pointless drivel and dead time. However, that is a personal bias, and not a knock on this film. While this picture is not without its problems, it does provide some good entertainment, when the action actually picks up. Should you check it out? Sure, it won’t hurt you, but I wouldn’t exactly have high expectations for it.

3 out of 5 stars