Mad Max: Fury Road Review: Beautifully Bat-Shit Crazy

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“Do we really need another [insert classic movie]?”

As the trailers piled up for 2015, I’ve been muttering this to myself on daily basis. Do we need another Terminator? Can’t we leave Jurassic Park alone? Fantastic Four? Again?

Mad Max: Fury Road was another entry in a line of “why bothers.” The original Max was a low budget gem, The Road Warrior an instant classic and Beyond Thunderdome is pure Tina Turner camp. And even if George Miller was back in the writing / directing saddle, was a fourth Australian dystopian adventure necessary?

Yes. Yes. Hell yes. Not only is Mad Max: Fury Road a welcome successor to the 80’s trilogy, it’s a shot of nitrous injected into the stagnant arteries of mainstream cinema. It’s alive, it’s stunning and is the most exhilarating film I’ve seen in theaters all year. Maybe the best action flick in the last five.

It’s been a rough day for Mr. Max (Tom Hardy). Not only has he been captured by the War Boys, a gang of gasoline hungry maniacs led by the fearsome King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), he’s serving as a human blood donor to Nux (Nicholas Hoult), a member of Joe’s crazy squad.

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To make matters worse, one of the gang’s generals, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), has made off with King Joe’s five wives. When Nux and the army take off after her, Max finds himself in the middle of a dusty chase across the desert with more at stake than he could have possibly imagined.

And what a race it is. In a word, it’s pure insanity. Cars explode, bodies fly and madness exists at every turn. Every eye popping moment, from hand to hand fighting to vehicular mayhem, is perfectly paced and beautifully shot, even when the images are terrifying. More unnerving than scary, the world Max lives in will leave you squirming in your seat.

Speaking of the title character, Tom Hardy is well cast as Mel Gibson’s replacement. Right at home in the dusty leather jacket, Hardy injects Max with everything we expect: a stoic lone wolf with a tiny soft spot for doing the right thing.

But Max isn’t the real star of the show. Charlize Theron’s tale of personal redemption is the real driving force. Effective as the robot armed rouge, Theron channels Ripley from Alien as a strong, defiant survivor.

Yawwwwn. Just another day in the wasteland.
Yawwwwn. Just another day in the wasteland.

All that said, there’s a couple of tiny bumps in the road. A few of the lines are cornball cheese (not in a good way) and the opening is so spastic, it’s tough to get what’s going on. This evens out over the course of the film, but I found the story stalled a bit because of it. Understandable when an important character’s motivation is revealed while his head is hovering five inches from the ground out of a hurtling vehicle.

And yes, that’s exactly as awesome as it sounds. This is what separates Fury Road from every other action film out there: writer/director George Miller’s signature style. A thousand tiny touches like crazy skull hood ornaments or a psychotic guitar player strapped to the hood of a moving truck give it a unique feel. The last time I saw something this wonderfully different was Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City. The look and feel is what makes the film stand out.

Much like last year’s Snowpiercer, Mad Max: Fury Road is action with an artistic flair. The type of movie that makes you want to scream down the highway at a hundred miles an hour with The Offspring playing in the background. George Miller’s fourth franchise entry high fives the past while modernizing the mayhem for newer audiences. When I first saw the trailer, I thought, “Why bother?” Now I’m asking, “When can I see this again?”

NOTE: I saw this in 3D and while there are a handful of moments that were truly eye popping, it’s not required. A standard 2D viewing would be fine.

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