Mel Gibson in a scene from the film 'Mad Max', 1979.
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May 15, 2015 12:00 PM EDT

The new Mad Max movie, Mad Max: Fury Road, in theaters this Friday, will be the first one in the franchise without the familiar face of Mel Gibson. (Tom Hardy plays Max this time around.)

But that might not really matter. As Richard Corliss wrote in his review of the original 1979 thriller, the title character wasn’t the real reason Mad Max worked:

In fact, Corliss wrote, Miller’s skill with the language of violence amounted to an example of true directorial integrity — and that its “tough-gutted intelligence” would be studied in film schools in years to come.

Read the full review, here in the TIME Vault: Poetic Car-Nage

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