Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road

2015, R, 120 min. Directed by George Miller. Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Josh Helman, Nathan Jones, Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 15, 2015

For going on three decades I’ve been winning bar bets with one simple question: What’s “Mad” Max’s surname? It’s only mentioned once in director George Miller’s 1979 original (by the pre-crazed Ozploitation anti-hero’s brawny, Bronze boss, Fifi). The answer is “Rockatansky” and, dammit if it isn’t listed prominently in Fury Road’s credits. Guess I’ll have to come up with a new stumper, but no matter: Fury Road is, to paraphrase Mad Max’s Nightrider, “a fuel-injected suicide machine, a rocker, a roller, an out-of-controller,” and a genuine, mindblowing masterpiece of pure action cinema. If any other film this summer tops its N02-powered adrenaline rush, I’ll eat Mel Gibson’s boots.

Miller has wisely replaced his original albeit unpredictable ex-superstar with Englishman Tom Hardy, who has a similar stony mien and wears the gearhead icon’s battered leather jacket with somewhat less swagger and more pathos. Truly, this Max is mad, haunted by PTSD and stung by visions of long-gone allies and kin. We first glimpse him standing beside his equally iconic 600HP, V8 Interceptor, gobbling a two-headed desert lizard for breakfast. Before long, he is captured by Immortan Joe (Keays-Byrne, aka Toecutter from the ’79 film), the humongous leader of an army of white-painted War Boys who, ridden with pseudo-religious fervor and some horrific pox, use normal humans as living blood-bags. In Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, gasoline was the lifeblood of this dreadful post-apocalyptic society; now it’s water, which Joe controls. He also has a harem of lovely young women he regularly impregnates, hoping for an heir. Which brings us to Charlize Theron’s remarkable performance as the one-armed warrior woman Furiosa. Her cropped hair and yen for redemption kick in visions of Maria Falconetti from Carl Theodor Dreyer’s legendary 1928 The Passion of Joan of Arc, which I suspect is no mere coincidence. Furiosa, who more than lives up to her name, is Fury Road’s heart and soul – well, after all those nightmarishly souped-up deathmobiles – and this future über-feminist/humanist gets all of the good lines.

Not that there’s much dialogue at all in this kiss-of-steel chase movie to end all chase movies. There’s damage aplenty: metal damage, brain damage, and enough practical, non-CGI, vehicular and pyro gags to make Stunt Rock feel like Goodnight Moon. Miller and his editors Jason Ballentine and Margaret Sixel continue the series’ editorial aesthetic of under-cranking specific shots, making the most viciously hyperstylized moments appear stuttery and surreal, like a glorious bad dream, or a trip down the bad-acid rabbit hole. Director of Photography John Seale goes all-out as well; Mad Max: Fury Road is epic, awe-inducing, extreme eye candy of the highest order, something like Buñuel meets Howard Hawks by way of an epinephrined-up Monte Hellman. Unstoppable and righteous, it roars across the no-lane hardpan like the four-iron horseman of the kinetic apocalypse, amped up on bathtub crank and undiluted movie love. Oh, what a movie. What a lovely movie!

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Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller, Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Josh Helman, Nathan Jones, Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton

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