Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Road Warrior (1982)

This film can be defined in one scene. Midway through the film, Mel Gibson is driving a Mack truck, and the main villain of the piece wants to stop him from reaching his destination. Instead of spraying him with a barrage of bullets, though, the guy aims his pistol and fires exactly one bullet, hitting his target with ruthless accuracy. It's this "one shot, one kill" mentality that spreads over the film like a quilt. The narrative economy on display here is amazing -- there's nothing in the film that doesn't need to be in the film. This is the action movie pared down to its bare bones, and given the post-apocalyptic setting, that feels all too appropriate. The paucity of dialogue no doubt contributes to this end as well, though when words are spoken it's often indicative of a gritty sense of humor that leavens the proceedings. (We wouldn't want a grim-fest, after all.) There's an existential bent to the plot, which is probably inescapable given the lean circumstances, but the message here seems to be as potent as the one in Two-Lane Blacktop: Either you keep moving or you cease to exist. That's just gravy, though. Even if you don't buy into that reading, you can still groove on this film as a ferocious study in velocity.

Grade: A-


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