Mad Max: Fury Road

★★★1/2

Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is a tortured man of few words. He was a cop before a nuclear fallout rendered the countryside scorched and barren. From there, criminal gangs overwhelmed forces for good and birthed a dystopian society helmed by the hideous and ruthless Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Commanding a Citadel  plagued by poverty and squalor, Joe teases the citizenry with life-giving water so that they “don’t get addicted.”

But Max, who roars and flares in protest, lets his actions do all of the talking.

He is the hero of Mad Max: Fury Road, the modern reboot to George Miller’s classic action franchise. Taking over for former title star Mel Gibson, Hardy drives, punches, and shoots his way through the desert sands under Miller's direction. It's unusual to see the same director lead the reboot of his or her former franchise. And with today’s highly advanced CGI and special effects, one feels that this was the Mad Max movie he originally envisioned, and the one he always wanted to make.

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Miller's passion for the Mad Max story is as bluntly overt as the non-stop entertainment he provides, which moves at an absolutely frenetic pace. Fury Road  could nearly qualify as a two-hour car chase scene; one that leaves fire, smoke, and pure, unadulterated entertainment in its wake.

Kennedy Miller Productions / Village Roadshow Pictures

Kennedy Miller Productions / Village Roadshow Pictures

Fortunately, Miller gives meaning to the exploding car derby with strong characters supporting an equally strong story. Not unlike the badass Max is Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a courageous rebel who seeks to return to her beloved green homelands. When she crosses paths with Max, the two become the ultimate duo to fend off Joe’s legion of “War Boys," warriors covered in white body paint who beat their chests and fight with suicidal fervor. But there's no romance between them; simply a mutual desire to rebel against Joe, and their own courage and power to help them achieve that goal.

But perhaps more compelling than these characters’ energetic bravery are the impassioned performances behind them. Even with little dialogue, Hardy and Theron use highly physical acting to command attention and dominate each frame of film - mostly through fists, but through faces equally as well.  Hardy and Theron are the pistons in the engine that powers Fury Road.

Kennedy Miller Productions / Village Roadshow Pictures

Kennedy Miller Productions / Village Roadshow Pictures

It is because of that engine that Fury Road can seamlessly transition from well-acted dialogue scenes into stylishly brutal and absurd action sequences - all brilliantly shot by John Seale. Exploding spears, cars covered in rusted spikes, and War Boys spraying chrome paint onto their mouths are ridiculous enough to be wildly entertaining. With a heavy dosage of effective production design that essentially turns this wasteland setting into a biker gang plant, Fury Road  distinguishes itself from the urban-set superhero blockbusters of late. In fact, Fury Road  looks to begin a new Mad Max  franchise; three more films are already in the works.

Ohter solid performances round off the cast and lend depth to the Mad Max  universe. Most notably, War Boy follower Nux (Nicholas Hoult), who chases down and eventually follows Max, serves well as a young'n still navigating the world, and of the difference between right and wrong. The “five wives,” originally smuggled away from Joe by Furiosa, make compellingly effective backseat players as Max and Furiosa advance the movie’s fast-paced plot. With a wide diversity of character types, at least one character in Fury Road’s ensemble will surely resonate with anyone. Although the heated desert is devoid of life, Fury Road’s cast is rich in energy and emotion.

Kennedy Miller Productions / Village Roadshow Pictures

Kennedy Miller Productions / Village Roadshow Pictures

So peculiarly entrancing is this post-apocalyptic world that certain plot holes are easily overlooked. In particular, oil and gasoline – two of their most prized resources – are somehow common enough to run and maintain the dozens upon dozens of scrap-metal cars, trucks, and dirtbikes used throughout the story. And in Furiosa's big rig, only two or three times do they stop to add more water to the radiator - and then continue driving for several more miles. The essentials of Auto Basics 101 be damned.

Even with these inconsistencies, there is no doubt Miller’s brainchild remains as compelling and entertaining as its box office competition. Keenly edited and passionately stylized, Fury Road  might be considered his best work, and the movie will surely enthrall longtime fans as well as entice newcomers to the older movies.

Myself included. I can't wait to watch Mel Gibson kick some ass.

Written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nick Lathouris. Directed by George Miller.

Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, and Hugh Keays-Byrne.

© 2015 Rex J. Lindeman.   All rights reserved.   |   (760) 274-5948   |   rexlindeman@gmail.com

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