Furiously Fun —
The thunderously entertaining re-boot “Mad Max: Fury Road” feels like a godsend – a relentless action movie that avoids clutter while maintaining a visual ferocity and taking time for a few heartwarming, even graceful detours. The wisdom of re-imagining a 30-something-year-old franchise is that it maintains enough distance to make comparisons difficult. So while “Fury Road” is not as groundbreaking as the original installments (particularly the iconic middle film, 1981’s “Road Warrior”) and lacks Mel Gibson’s presence, this update feels as fresh and exhilarating as a throwback film can be.
And how about director George Miller? The Aussie physician, now 70 years old, has produced films as diverse as “Babe” and “Lorenzo’s Oil,” but hasn’t done much behind the camera since directing the original “Mad Max” films. Then BOOM! Out of the shoot comes “Fury Road.” From the visceral opening sequences we know we are in for a great ride – shorn of CGI dependency and filled with delicious details as meticulous as a gas pedal made from a Brannock shoe-measuring device.
In a post-apocalyptic wasteland, former cop Max (a sturdy Tom Hardy) is captured by ghoulish desert marauders—his blood needed for the pale-skinned War Boys, the hyperactive minions of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Joe is the uber-creepy despot (think Skeletor meets Bane meets Doc Brown) of the survivors who controls the scant water supply and enslaves beautiful “breeders” in a sexual harem in order to produce heirs. A hero emerges, one of Joe’s lieutenants, the one-armed Imperator Furiousa (a gutsy Charlize Theron), who rebels and smuggles the breeders aboard an armored rig and hopes to take them to a lush refuge.
The simple plot (bad guys chasing the good guys) blends highly complex choreography with dystopian flair through every fabric of nihilistic couture. The mashed-together retro-futuristic vehicles sport the likes of a chainsaw-wielding maniac and a flame-throwing guitar player – with some nifty Cirque-like acrobatics thrown in for good measure.
Somehow it all works. But “Fury Road” is by no means brainless fun. Miller and crew take time to shake up things with opulent scene changes and a pulse-pounding score that includes moments of stark tonal shifts.
“Mad Max: “Fury Road” is surprisingly restrained for an R-rated film in the graphic violence department. For practical purposes it is a PG-13 film with a high body count. And it proves once again that implied terror goes a long way, especially when you have action sequences so marvelously orchestrated.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” kicks off the summer in furious, deliriously entertaining fashion.
Rated “R” for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images.