Living in a time where everyone is obsessed with zombies, disease, and everything that's closely related to post-apocalyptic doom, 1979's Mad Max hit like a cool air of an electric hand A/C. Just like how everyone seems to think that psychology in movies equal to copious amount of blood and numerous jump-scares, they also think that zombies and/or gangsters will be the post-apocalyptic world's only residents, with the occasional lone-guy or two. Although nothing has changed much from yesteryear's dystopic films and of the ones of the now, at-least the old ones had class. Though we do have some great modern examples - like The Road - almost all of them steer in the one direction, with little to offer, apart from the usual tough guy and attractive eye-candy. The old dystopic films, especially those of the 80's, had the propensity for being either brutally stark or brutally honest. Caricatures, they were not.
Mad Max is easily one of the finest examples of the genre, and of Australia Cinema as well. To the casual eye this film is straight-up vehicular porn. There are spectacular cars, even spectacular crashes, and orgasm-inducing engine sounds and unrelenting machismo. Only two types of people may be attracted to a film like this: the morally depressed, or the hormonally charged. As for me, I'm rather unsure, to tell you the truth.
The world of Mad Max is all but dead. Fearsome personas roam what is left of anything and terrorize what is left of anyone. Fuel has become a precious scarcity, and vehicles - any kind - have become the most prized commodity. No-one should be without one. I enjoyed how they made it less Western and more 16th Century expedition-style. I also enjoyed how the characters were unconventional, with none being too self-aware, and all being formidable in their own ways. It's clear to see they're inhabiting a world they realize is too corrupted and broken down without their help.
Unlike most others, bar Blade Runner, this film is also very masculine. It really is a man's world out there, and women and children are second-hand assets. I also enjoyed the fact that almost nothing was exaggerated and the spotlight - thankfully - did not dwell much on the emotional factor; because this film doesn't have any.
From the performances, Mel Gibson was awesome, though a little bit loose around the edges, and that's perfectly understandable. It's from the second film onward he becomes the iconic character as we know him today. Nevertheless, I enjoyed his performance and I likened it to a light-headed version of Rick Deckard. From the supporting, Hugh Keays-Byrne was quite unsettling as Toecutter, the antagonist. The villains of the series have always been brutal and creative, and Toecutter is the best example, though he always get over-shadowed by everyone's favorite, Humungus, from the second film. The rest of the cast were exceptionally brilliant, too.
In conclusion, Mad Max is a must watch. It's a film with little to no soul in it, even less sympathy, but a-lot of powerful moments and awesome vehicular scenes.