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George Miller
Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Michael Preston, Max Phipps, Vernon Wells, Kjell Nilsson
Writing Credits:
Terry Hayes, George Miller, Brian Hannant

Ruthless ... Savage ... Spectacular

In the post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland, a cynical drifter agrees to help a small, gasoline rich, community escape a band of bandits.

Box Office:
$2 million.
Opening Weekend
$2.527 million on 704 screens.
Domestic Gross
$23.226 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital Stereo
Castillian Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish Dolby Digital Stereo
German Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital Stereo
Portuguese Dolby Digital Mono
Czech Dolby Digital Mono
Hungarian Dolby Digital Mono
Polish Dolby Digital Mono
Russian Dolby Digital 5.1
Castillian Spanish
Latin Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:
Castillian Spanish

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 6/4/2013

• Audio Commentary with Director George Miller and Cinematographer Dean Semler
• Introduction by Film Critic Leonard Maltin
• Trailer


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

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The Road Warrior [Blu-Ray] (1981)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 8, 2013)

One of those films on the short list of sequels often considered superior to their predecessors, 1981’s The Road Warrior expands on the characters and situations seen in 1979’s Mad Max. When we first met him, “Mad” Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) worked as a police officer, but after baddies killed his wife and kid, he got his revenge and struck out on his own.

Set in a lawless, post-apocalyptic Australian outback, we now find Max as a drifter who perpetually seeks gasoline, a limited quantity in this environment. “The Gyro Captain” (Bruce Spencer) claims he knows where to find a refinery, and he leads Max to that location. Max waits for his chance to abscond with fuel, a task complicated by the presence of violent gangs – including one with psychotic Wez (Vernon Wells).

Max finds himself involved in a different manner after he watches Wez’s gang rape and murder some locals – the folks who actually run the refinery. Though he claims he just wants the gas, Max becomes the protector of these folks – in an anti-hero way – and that choice leads to a variety of battles with Wez and his boss, The Humungus (Kjell Nilsson).

Road Warrior came out back when I was in high school, and I remember my friends all loved it. How did I feel about it? Honestly, I don’t recall. I guess I liked it, but I don’t think I shared their enthusiasm.

More than 30 years later, I can’t claim that memories flooded back to me, which might be a sign that I never felt all that wild about the film. Oh, it brought back some vague impressions, but for the most part, this felt like my initial screening of the movie.

And not an especially satisfying screening at that. At its best, Road Warrior could provide some good action. The early sequence that introduces Max, Wez and others packs a decent punch, and the final 20 minutes or so deliver lively stunts and thrills.

Unfortunately, we put up with a lot of nothing the rest of the time. Road Warrior lacks a substantial plot, as like Mad Max, it essentially provides little more than a Western dressed up in futuristic garb. Max becomes the reluctant hero forced to protect the innocent from sadistic marauders; we’ve seen similar stories many times, and we’ve seen them explored in a more involving manner.

That’s because Road Warrior does little to explore/develop its characters. At least the Max of the first film had an arc; this one fails to change or show much personality as the story progresses, and the supporting characters lack real definition as well. They’re one-dimensional cartoons with little else to offer us.

If the story came with more meat, that wouldn’t seem so bad, but it remains a lackluster narrative. For a putative action flick, Road Warrior can be awfully draggy – especially given its fairly brief running time. The movie often teases us with action but we must wait a while for better developed pieces to come; we end up well into the third act before much really happens.

When we do get to the action, the movie does well for itself. Heck, maybe director George Miller planned it that way; perhaps he wanted the first hour-plus to seem low-key so the climax would present a greater impact.

The problem is that the first two acts drag so much that they threaten to lose us. The movie’s oh-so-80s view of the future doesn’t help, as we find a particularly era-based take on how such an period would look – think “extras in a Plasmatics video” and you’ll be on the right track. This probably seemed cool 30 years ago, but now it comes across as downright campy.

Again, the climax does manage to redeem matters somewhat, as Miller stages a big road battle that creates a good sense of excitement. Unfortunately, I think it comes too late to make much of a difference. Though not without charms, The Road Warrior drags too often to create a consistently satisfying adventure.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

The Road Warrior appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Though it didn’t dazzle, the image satisfied.

Overall clarity seemed good. While the movie didn’t often seem “razor sharp”, it usually displayed good definition, and the soft spots weren’t a particular distraction. I witnessed no concerns with jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes were absent. Since I saw a nice layer of grain, I didn’t sense any intrusive noise reduction, and the print came free from defects.

Films set in post-apocalyptic wastelands don’t usually opt for bright ‘n’ bold hues, so expect a sandy palette from Road Warrior. Though occasional instances of more dynamic hues occasionally occurred, the tones remained low-key most of the time; within those constraints, they seemed appropriate. Blacks were deep and tight, and shadows were fairly good; a couple of low-light shots looked a bit dense, but overall clarity was positive. In general, this became a quality presentation.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1, it showed its age but fared reasonably well. The soundfield managed to open up matters in a reasonable manner, as the movie exhibited decent panning and movement. The big action sequences used the side/rear speakers the best and showed vehicles and weapons that cropped up in logical places; as it moved from rear to front, the gyrocopter worked best. The integration could be a bit clunky, and music lacked particularly precise stereo imaging, but given the era of the material, the soundscape created a fairly solid sense of place.

Audio quality held up in a generally positive way. Speech could be a little rough at times, but the lines tended to be fairly natural and concise. Music showed decent range, and effects provided acceptable accuracy; they could also demonstrate nice low-end punch. This wasn’t a killer mix but it seemed more than passable for an old movie.

Only a few extras appear here, and we launch with an audio commentary from director George Miller and cinematographer Dean Semler. Both sit together for their running, screen-specific look at story/character areas, cinematography and visual design, cast and performances, sets and locations, sequel-related issues, stunts and action, editing, music and some other topics.

Semler and Miller combine for a warm, collegial feel in this likable chat. They keep the commentary moving well most of the time and give us a nice overview of the appropriate issues. Expect an informative, enjoyable piece.

The movie can be viewed with or without an introduction from film critic Leonard Maltin. In this three-minute, 37-second piece, Maltin gives us some background on the movie and offers his perspective on its success. He throws in some nice observations. We also find the flick’s theatrical trailer.

Although I can’t say I loved Mad Max, I found it preferable to its often slow, often campy sequel. The Road Warrior ends with a bang but plods on its way to its big finale. The Blu-ray brings us generally good picture and audio along with a worthwhile commentary. This is a pretty nice release but the movie leaves me surprisingly cold.

Note that this Blu-ray can be purchased on its own or as part of a three-film boxed set. “The Mad Max Trilogy” includes Blu-rays for 1979’s Mad Max, 1981’s The Road Warrior and 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. All can be purchased individually as well, but the “Trilogy” package provides a small discount for fans who want all three.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.2857 Stars Number of Votes: 14
5 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

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