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Monday, May 18, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road 2015 * * * Stars

Mad Max: Fury RoadDirector: George Miller
Year: 2015
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult

In the mid-1980's, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior represented the first time I ever saw a movie on VHS. No joke. There I was, taking in the existential, catastrophic splendor and thrusted into a funky, eclectic world that only director George Miller could deposit me in. I was also taken aback by the aura of star Mel Gibson. He didn't say much. He just drove the big rig and gave any punk rocker delinquent the business (via a veritable, sawed-off shotgun). When the announcement that a new installment was on the horizon (some thirty years later), it was also predicated on the fact that Australia's favorite son be omitted from the lead role. Brit Tom Hardy who seems to be everywhere these days, got to inhabit the driver's seat (ha-ha). The question on every moviegoer's mind is can he fill the shoes of "mad" Mel? The answer is, it doesn't matter. Mad Max: Fury Road isn't entirely about the character of Max Rockatansky. And Hardy for what it's worth, only possesses about a smidgen of Melle Mel's ear to the grindstone screen presence. For practical purposes though, he'll do and so will the movie. Its plot is slight yet there are action sequences providing enough scorched antics and kinetic motion to make your eyes shoot through the back of your head. We're talking apocalypse now more than ever.

Historically, George Miller has been in charge of every Mad Max movie since their franchised inception back in 1979. He takes everything that made those films work and ratchets it up a few more notches here. His world in "Fury Road", is made up of caricatures that for the most part, are funkier, nastier, and much more repugnant. This is imagination outside five boxes. The look is more modern too. Cinematographer John Seale (he shot The Tourist) harbors a canvas that is ablaze, drenched, and vehemently dusty. It's like a sunburn that eventually turns golden brown. As for storytelling sensibilities, well they are fashioned less than in all three of the previous outings combined. The script is the product of more than one writer and you think to yourself, "did it need that many?" In truth, there's not a whole lot of dialogue anyway and I suppose whatever amount is messaged to the audience, well it probably comes off as concealed. No matter. I honestly don't go to Mad Max movies for the account. I want to view what Roger Daltrey sang about (that would be the tune by The Who called "Let's See Action"). Granted, this 2015 release has enough pyrotechnics, villainy, and aerodynamic exertion for ten movies (with what seems like almost no CGI). I hope the stuntmen got paid handsomely because they work some serious overtime.

Now the last thirty minutes of Mad Max: Fury Road are a masterpiece all in itself. They make the flick better than it really is or even has a right to be. You gotta use your utmost imagination or just think Raiders of the Lost Ark on anabolic steroids. What precludes is an extended chase sequence with enough semi trucks and other motorized vehicles to overrun the city of Detroit. There is violence in nature here and acrobatic candour that simply wears you out.

So who is this all attributed to? Well director George Miller of course and at age 70, he is one feisty fellow. This dude is like the Martin Scorsese of action directors because of his starry-eyed energy that's blatantly possessed. He hadn't made a Mad Max film since 1985 so you know that he had a lot of time to subjugate his newest vision. My thinking is that he might have checked out 1995's Waterworld to mirror the costume design, or to polish things up a bit, or even to add some new angles (there are shots in "Fury Road" where the villainous malefactors are off in the distance and you know that danger is coming. It reminded me of said film so sue me). His premise is in short doses and it intervenes between periods of metal-geared rubble and heavy metal stage prog.

You have of course, Max (Tom Hardy). He's an Australian prisoner and a man who's held captive while being used for upside down blood donation. Then there's Imperator Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron in the token, female badass role). She's a War Rig driver who is helping five wives escape from breeding slavery. Finally, we have Nux (played by Nicolas Hoult who reminded me of the Gyro Captain from The Road Warrior). He's a sick War Boy and needs a large amount of ichor to go on surviving. That's all I'm gonna reveal. Just know that all of these souped-up characters are in some way, connected. Now your job is to buy a ticket, get strapped in, and let the chaos and upheaval simply spill onto the screen.

In conclusion, this film has garnered four stars from many of the nation's critics. I myself enjoyed it but I'm scratching my head to figure where all the enormous praise came from. Here's how I chalked up my rating. I gave Mad Max: Fury Road three and a half stars for the audacious, relentless suspense and two and a half stars for the razor thin narrative. That results in a solid dose of action-adventure fare but not something that's catered to magnum opus territory. Regardless, this is still a "road" worth taking. There are no exits, no stop lights, and the aspect of no passing lanes is irrelevant. To quote Nicolas Hoult's albino, cracked-lipped Nux, "what a day, what a lovely day!" Natch.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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