"The Road Warrior" (Mad Max 2 outside the US) is not a film that made it onto either my 10 best films of the 80s list or my alternate reality 10 best films of the 80s list, but it's a film worth talking about (and seeing) strictly for the sheer visceral intensity it generates.

The reason I didn't include The Road Warrior on either 10 best list is because the story is anything but original. Basically it lifts its story line from Clint Eastwood's devastating "High Plains Drifter" (1973) where an apparitional law enforcement figure emerges from the desert wasteland and comes more or less to the aid of a group of isolated average types beset by marauding baddies.

In High Plains Drifter Eastwood's character may or may not be the ghost of the town's Sheriff who was murdered by the baddies while the townsfolk looked on passively. In The Road Warrior Max is what's left of a former Highway Patrol officer whose wife and child were murdered by the same type of bad guys who now besiege the mom and pop refinery Max stumbles upon in his never ending search for gasoline. In both movies the antihero demonstrates little but contempt for the people he's protecting, has no time for a love interest, says nothing about who he is or where he's from and takes on a sidekick of sorts who yearns to be partners with the ultimate bad-ass. In the end both antiheroes disappear back into the desert after routing the baddies.

The difference between High Plains Drifter and The Road Warrior is that Eastwood's story was in large part a bare knuckles beat down of the idea that the taking of the American West was in any way heroic. In The Road Warrior the plot points from Eastwood's story are used simply as a devices to hang kick ass action scenes on and any larger issues (and many smaller ones) are simply left unattended. (For instance; where do you get drinking water in the post apocalypse wasteland? If food is so scarce that Max is reduced to eating dog food what's he washing it down with? "Dinky Dee" mineral water?) But I digress because as I said this is not a movie that asks questions or points fingers, it simply smashes thing up. Lots of things. In wonderful, pre-CGI ways.

The movie doesn't waste any time getting to the point as it opens with Max being pursued down a lonesome outback highway by several cars and a motorcycle operated by a bunch of guys in the latest Marquis de Sade formal wear. Steel, rubber and bodies get put through a blender of collisions until Max emerges from the chaos to sop up the gas leaking from a wreck onto the highway. This as it turns out will be one of the more low key chase scenes in a movie that keeps ramping up the mayhem until we get to the final chase with Max in a big rig pursued by 20 or so cars full of wasteland creeps intent on ruining his day.

The action scenes are crisp, non-stop affairs where real cars are smashed, crashed and otherwise pulverized at high speed while being shot from a variety of compelling angles. Several stunt men were injured during the filming which took place near the Australian town of Broken Hill. The editing is tight and seamless with no annoying Christopher Nolan-type dead spots to break up the tension, and the constant ear-splitting sound of engines red-lining and steel smashing into steel never lets you disengage from the chaos on screen.

Credit must be given to cinematographer Dean Semler for creating a real sense of time and place out of what is essentially a bunch of dirt and rocks and for the care he took in capturing the visceral thrills inherent in the innumerable high speed collisions. The result is a movie that makes you want to wear your seat belt. The cast also do an excellent job breathing life into roles where they're given next to nothing to say.

The opening 4 minutes of The Road Warrior...