Mad Max is a 1979 Australian dystopian action film directed by George Miller, produced by Byron Kennedy and starring Mel Gibson. James McCausland and Miller wrote the screenplay from a story by Miller and Kennedy.
A berserk motorcycle gang member named Crawford "Nightrider" Montazano (Vincent Gil), having killed a rookie officer of an Australian highway patrol called the Main Force Patrol (MFP) while escaping from police custody, is attempting to outrun the other MFP officers in a stolen Pursuit Special. Though he manages to elude his initial pursuers, the MFP's top pursuit-man, Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson), then engages the less-skilled Nightrider in a high-speed chase. During a sudden game of "chicken", the Nightrider breaks off first, his nerve suddenly broken in the confrontation with Max; he is unable to recover his wits, which leads to the Nightrider's death in a fiery crash.
The next day, fellow officer Jim "Goose" Rains (Steve Bisley) gets Max's attention, leading him to where the police mechanic reveals a Police Special under repair, but all in black. As Max looks on, Goose and the mechanic reveal the engine: a V-8 engine with a supercharger, which would make it the fastest car on the road. Max, almost hypnotized by the sight, agrees enthusiastically with Goose and the mechanic to get the car completed quickly for him to drive. Although the mechanic says he collected the parts to build the engine, a wiretap listening in on the exchange reveals that MFP Captain Fred "Fifi" Macaffee (Roger Ward) commissioned the car to be built to be Max's own personal vehicle, to help convince him to stay on the force.
The Acolytes, Nightrider's motorcycle gang, led by Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and Bubba Zanetti (Geoff Parry), are running roughshod over a town, vandalizing property, stealing fuel, and terrorizing the population. Max and Goose arrest Toecutter's young protégé, Johnny "the Boy" Boyle (Tim Burns), who was too high to leave the scene of the gang's rape of a young couple. When neither the rape victim nor any of the townspeople show for Johnny's trial, the federal courts throw out the case. Goose, furious at Johnny's release, must be restrained as he and Johnny exchange violent threats at the city police station. After Bubba drags Johnny away, Fifi tells his officers to do whatever it takes to combat the gangs, "so long as the paperwork's clean".
A short time later, Johnny sabotages Goose's motorcycle while he attends a show at a nightclub in the city. The next day while out on patrol in the countryside, the motorcycle locks up at high speed, throwing Goose into a field. An uninjured Goose calls a towing service, also borrows a ute to haul his damaged bike back to the MFP HQ. However, Johnny and Toecutter are waiting in ambush, with the former throwing a brake drum at Goose's windscreen, causing him to crash the ute. With Goose unable to get out of the ute, Johnny—under pressure from Toecutter—throws a match into the petrol leaking from the wreck, triggering an inferno that severely burns the helpless Goose. After seeing Goose's charred body in a hospital intensive care unit, Max becomes disillusioned with the MFP, and the fear of losing his sanity convinces him to resign. His superior, Fifi, talks Max into taking a holiday before making his final decision about the resignation.
While vacationing, Max stops at a roadside garage to have a tire repaired while his wife, Jessie (Joanne Samuel), and their infant son, Sprog (Brendan Heath), go for ice cream. The two encounter Toecutter's gang, who attempt to molest Jessie. Max and his family flee to a remote farm owned by an elderly friend named May (Shelia Florence), but the gang learns of their destination from the garage mechanic and follows them. Jessie is waylaid by the gang after a trip to the beach; May holds them off with a shotgun. May, Jessie, and Sprog manage to escape in the van. After the van breaks down on the road, Jessie attempts to flee with her son on foot, but they are run down by the pursuing gang on their motorcycles; Max arrives too late to intervene.
With Sprog having been killed instantly and Jessie near death, a rage-filled Max dons his police leathers, and takes the supercharged black Pursuit Special from the MFP garage to pursue the gang. After torturing the auto mechanic for information, and forcing several members of the gang off a bridge at high speed, Max methodically hunts down the gang's leaders. He shoots Bubba Zanetti at point blank range with a shotgun (after sustaining a significant gunshot leg injury of his own), though Johnny escapes when he sees Bubba killed. As Toecutter flees on his motorcycle, tailed closely by Max, he veers into the path of an oncoming semi-trailer truck and is run over.
Max eventually locates Johnny, who is looting a car crash victim he presumably murdered. In a cold, suppressed rage, Max handcuffs Johnny's ankle to the wrecked vehicle, and sets a crude time-delay fuse involving a slow fuel leak and Johnny's lighter. Throwing Johnny a hacksaw, Max leaves him the choice of sawing through either the handcuffs (which will take ten minutes) or his ankle (which will take five minutes). As Max casually walks away, Johnny begins pleading, seemingly going insane, as he fumbles with the hacksaw. As Max drives away from the bridge, the wrecked vehicle explodes, presumably killing Johnny. Now a shell of his former self, Max drives on to points unknown, pushing deep into the Outback.
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