Film Review – MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

mad_max_fury_roadLet’s just get this out of the way: Mad Max: Fury Road is the amped-up action thrill ride of the year.We’ve seen the post-apocalypse before, but never like this. Director George Miller’s mad genius return to the iconic action series takes a simple cat and mouse chase premise and thrusts it full throttle to become one of the most intense and visually exhausting films ever made.

Miller’s fourth Mad Max entry reboots the character with Tom Hardy taking over the lead from Mel Gibson as the former law officer fighting for survival in the savage wastelands of the Australian outback. The film doesn’t meander in getting things started and has no pit stops in delivering the mayhem.

45 years after society’s fall following global nuclear war. There is no law, plus water and food are scarce. Living alone out in the wastelands, despite his best efforts Max Rockatansky (Hardy) finds himself hunted, captured and imprisoned at The Citadel. The fortified compound run by the cruel warlord run by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), houses various savage tribes and provides only the barest rations of flowing water to the desperate souls begging at its doorstep.

Immortan Joe sends a rag tag convoy on a gas trade to yes, Gas Town (bullets and feul are also high commodities in this post-apocalyptic world) led by his high commander Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron). Furiosa has her own agenda, double crosses Joe and smuggles out his five captive brides, a group of breeding slaves tasked to provide heirs to the kingdom. A convey of his heavily armed minions are dispatched to bring them back no matter what the cost. Things don’t get better for Max when he is strapped to the front of one of the battle worthy road vehicles like a hunted deer and attached to an active IV to provide the driver, War Boy (Nicholas Hoult) with his clean blood. And go…

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Once the film takes to the road, and wastes little time getting there, it never slows down. As Fury Road moves, which is pretty much from start to finish, it runs without apologies on all cylinders. The thrust of the plot finds Furiosa joining forces with Max to transport the brides to a place in her distant memories called The Green Place.

The film is a tour de force of non-stop action set pieces. Miller brings mayhem to every scene with sweeping crane shots, frantic camera work, and seizure inducing editing. There is little time for talk. The scant amount of lines among the entire main cast is astonishing. Miller first envisioned the film in a series of storyboards rather than a traditional screenplay. When you see the finished product, you understand how the film is grounded in visceral visuals over dialogue. Miller’s execution of the story shows us that a straight forward mission does not need to be slowed down by layers of back story or unnecessary exposition. Less is certainly more where the dialogue is concerned, and there is enough to perfectly push the story forward while keeping its frantic pace.

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Hardy brings all the necessary quiet man no-nonsense kick-ass toughness and thensome to Max. But truly the film’s main story is not his, it belongs to Theron’s Furiosa. Furiosa has been Joe’s loyal sidearm doing his dirty work for too long, a victim herself kidnapped at a young age. The movie has no shortage of strong female characters, even the brides are tough as nails and adept with survival skills, but Theron really takes it home as a haunted soul who is ultimately seeking redemption for her sins. She wants to amends by robbing joe of his offspring and get the brides to the lush garden oasis she was taken from as child.

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The villain in Immortan Joe is also a memorable terrifying creature based on the less is more school of thought. His skull-based breathing apparatus bests Darth Vader’s asthma aid for sheer fear inducing. His actions speak louder than words, as it does for everyone in the film, but knowing he ravages young women, withholds water from the desperate people outside his fortress, and will kill anyone who stands in his way only adds to the intimidating visual presence from Hugh Keays-Byrne and the jaw dropping costume design.

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The costume and vehicle design are simply extraordinary. Each tribe of the fallen society has a dusty distinct look that is practical for their role and leaves little to explain. It’s more fuel to how the look of the film allows it to have minimal dialogue. One glance at any given character is half their story explained.

Despite all the overall high-end studio production value, Fury Road still wears many of its b-movie aspects with a badge of honor. Silly names for people and places, unapologetic violence and more action than talk, Miller uses all this to his advantage in building this dirty detailed world. We are given only a few moments to breathe that allow the cast for rare exchanges of actual dialogue, but the film is for all intents and purposes, one breath taking extended chase scene.

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All the vehicles are given a filthy anti-Michael Bay overhaul. Morphed into roided up pieces of heavy artillery, layers upon layers stacked on top of one another to create terrifying monster trucks. Miller shoots them with rough affection and pulls no punches with showing cars and bikes jumping over sand dunes and tearing down dangerous terrain.

A special nod must go out to one stand-out background character, the film’s guitar hero Coma-Doof Warrior. Perched out on front of a speeding truck throughout the entire main chase, the post-apocalypse’s most memorable Rock God rallies the evil troops by thrashing his bald head and ripping out heavy guitar riffs using his guitar to shoot flames that would make Ace Frehley blush through his KISS make-up. It’s a very simple concept and character, but an instant crowd pleaser. I can see this becoming an instant fan favorite cosplay.

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You’re left exhausted and exhilarated by the time the end credits roll. The story does find completion in its destination driven plot, though not without some unexpected turns of course. Pick any need for speed description you want: pedal to the metal, full throttle, high octane, the list goes on and they all rightfully apply when describing the film. Mad Max: Road Fury is an exceptional explosive ride that goes off the traditional path taken by most tentpole films, and knocks you on your ass with two hours of the most mind blowing fun you’ll have with pure mayhem this year.

Mad Max: Fury Road hits 3D theaters on May 15th.

REVIEW RATING: ★★★★½
Director: George Miller
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Huntington-Whitley, Hugh Keays-Byrne
Screenwriters: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nick Lathouris
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rated: R
Running Time: 120 minutes

Jim Kiernan
Founder and moderator of Nerdy Rotten Scoundrel. Steering this ship the best I can. Lifelong opinionated geek & pop culture enthusiast. Independent television & film professional. Born & raised New Yorker. My dog Nicholas is awesome.

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