Starring Mel Gibson in his iconic, career-launching role, George Miller's influential cult classic Mad Max remains a bombastic, wildly manic piece of entertainment about a lone police officer barely gripping to his sanity in a bleak, nihilistic vision of a dystopian future. Kino Lober celebrates 40 years of gonzo road-rage mayhem with a 4K Ultra HD edition of the beloved actioner, fueled by a souped-up Dolby Vision HDR video, a trio of good DTS-HD audio track and a strong set of bonus features. Overall, the UHD vehicle is a Recommended ride for fans.
Borrowing from one of the film's villains, George Miller's influential classic Mad Max is a fuel-injected suicide machine, rocking and rolling out of control down the highways of a dystopian Australian landscape. It's a bleak, nihilistic future where law and order quickly deteriorates while the world continues surviving on the fumes of the planet's virtually-depleted fossil fuels. Ironically, those still desperately clinging to some semblance of civil society have taken to a near masochistic obsession with high-performance, gas-guzzling automobiles. Our would-be reluctant hero, Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson), is one such character, a federal police force in the Main Force Patrol (MFP). The suggestive fetishism for roaring muscle cars is made all the more implicit as the cop almost methodically dresses into his black leather uniform and easily dispatches criminals in his souped-up black Ford Falcon XB GT.
On the surface, Miller's directorial debut can be dismissed as another car-obsessed action flick in the vein of similarly-minded American actioners, fueled by a standard revenge-vigilante formula after Max's wife (Joanne Samuel) and son are murdered by the maniac gang leader Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne). However, in his maddened rage for vengeance, the ingeniously subtle underlying themes and various touches of subtext come to light. Max's deranged, gonzo pursuit for justice outside of the system he already doubted and was feeling disillusioned by unfolds within a conventional, easily-identified western environment. Barely existing right at the cusp of modern civilization's collapse, the super-charged, high-octane classic with a genuine soft-spot for family is really a story about the uncertain future of the social order brilliantly fused with still-relatable environmental concerns.
Mad Max is ultimately a dystopian western tale where humanity slowly devolves into anarchy and the degradation of civil values, a harsh and unpleasant world where barbarity and savage brutality lies in wait, soon to become the norm.
For a more in-depth take on the film, check out our review of the 2015 Scream Factory Blu-ray and of the trilogy box set edition from Warner Bros.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Kino Lorber brings George Miller's Mad Max to Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack. The triple-layered UHD100 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-elite vortex case with a glossy slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to a static menu screen of the cover art with the usual options along the left side of the screen.
Reportedly coming from a brand-new 4K digital intermediate and remaster of the original elements, Mad Max burns rubber on the Ultra HD roads with a super-charged and souped-up HEVC H.265 encode that leaves its Blu-ray predecessors in the dust. The classic actioner has never looked as good as it does in this native 4K transfer, showing well-defined lines in each muscle car and motorcycle, exposing every scratch, dent and bit of rust. The stitching and threading in the clothing are discrete, individual hairs are razor-sharp, and every blade of grass and leaf in trees is distinct. We can also make out each crease and furrow in the aged leather of everyone's outfit, and facial complexions are highly revealing with healthy, lifelike textures in the entire cast.
Due to David Eggby's stylized, mostly soft-focus cinematography, contrast appears heavily subdued and controlled, which is intended for complementing the story with a bleak and somber atmosphere. As such, the 4K video won't immediately impress in that regard and isn't quite to expectations since much of the movie comes with a downcast feel and in a greyish tone. Nevertheless, specular highlights reveal the real overall improvements, as the brightest and hottest spots come with a tighter, narrower glow, such as the sunshine peeking along the edges of clouds or various metallic surfaces showing a better, more realistic sheen in bright daylight. Brightness levels appear to be in a similar boat where blacks seem a tad richer and inkier but not by a significant measure. However, there is some improved visibility within the shadows and darkest corners but again, not by much.
The biggest and arguably, most noteworthy upgrade in this Dolby Vision HDR presentation is the improved colors throughout, which is immediately apparent when seeing the somewhat cartoonish MFP vehicles glowing a vibrant bumblebee yellow with dynamic cobalt blue stipes. While the greens in leaves and grass enjoy a more natural, shamrock shade, the reds throughout are fuller and richly saturated, ranging from the cherry ruby of blood to the dramatic candy rose of some vehicles. Secondary hues also benefit and display a bit more variety throughout, providing the 2.39:1 image with a lovely array of soft pastels in Jessie's and Sprog's clothing, cerulean cyans in the sky, a motley of sepia browns and tans in Toecutter's overall appearance and lively fiery tiger oranges in the many explosions.
Again, the classic dystopian thriller has never looked better on home video, and loyal fans will be more than happy with the results. (Dolby Vision Video Rating: 84/100)
Although we've been blessed with a new souped-up HDR video of the beloved actioner, Kino Lorber's UHD release rumbles and revs its engine with the same trio of generally pleasing if only slightly troubled DTS-HD MA soundtracks. The third option is the American dubbed version while the second is the original monoaural Australian track, and the first is a 5.1 surround-sound remix. To my amazement and surprise, I found the latter quite enjoyable although the dialogue is occasionally overwhelmed and lightly drowned out by Brian May's score and the otherwise discrete effects, which sadly is true of both lossless mixes. Nevertheless, the mid-range is decently dynamic with strong clarity and detailing during the loudest, bombastic segments. Bass is also palpable where appropriate, but explosions and crashes feel a tad wimpy.
For more on the audio, check out our review of the 2013 Blu-ray HERE and the 2015 edition HERE. (Audio Rating: 72/100)
For this Ultra HD modification of Mad Max, Kino Lorber adds a couple new features to the same body of supplements seen in previous releases.
Ultra HD Disc
Mad Max roared into cinemas like a fuel-injected suicide machine, splattering the silver screen with bloody vengeance, modified-car mayhem, and a bleak vision of a post-apocalyptic future. George Miller directs the lone adventures of the road warrior super-charged and revving with wild stunt spectaculars that satisfy audiences' lust for wild, gonzo action. The beloved cult classic rages through the 4K Ultra HD highways with a spectacularly beautiful Dolby Vision HDR presentation, crashing into home theaters with a noteworthy improvement over its predecessors and making it the best the film has ever looked. The UHD edition is further fueled by the same trio of lossless DTS-HD MA soundtracks and a strong set of supplemental material, which includes a few new surprises. The overall package is ultimately a recommended addition to the UHD library.