Mad Max: Fury Road is Aussie director George Miller’s goofy, rip-roaring, full-bore, let-it-all-hang-out post-modern “reimagining” of Mad Max and Mad Max Two: The Road Warrior. Miller, 70, directed those two post-apocalyptic movies about thirty-five years ago. Mad Max put Mel Gibson on the map. The Road Warrior made Gibson a superstar. This movie reminds us how great Gibson was in the part. Here’s what passes for a plot in Miller’s start-to-finish blow-‘em-up shoot-‘em-up non-stop chase movie . . .
In Fury Road, the post-apocalyptic world is a leftist’s wet dream. The world has run out of oil, everything is contaminated with radiation, all men are brutes and the one satellite visible in the sky probably broadcasts tapes of Rush Limbaugh 24/7. It’s hell on Earth! Ah, but hell looks beautiful. No, really, it does, thanks to the remarkable cinematography of John Seale. If hell looked like this, a lot of damned souls would be carrying Nikons.
In a place called ‘The Citadel,” a cruel, homicidal, horny, deformed warlord named Immortan Joe controls the water supply, which is a big deal where the world is mostly desert. The horror-masked Joe (played by Hugh Keays-Byrne, who was “Toecutter” in the original Mad Max) is able to keep control of the water and the people thanks to hundreds of War Boys, who seem to be suicidal teenage English skinheads in Casper the Friendly Ghost makeup. While all the War Boys are diseased and have a half-life rather than a life, most of them manage to look like they spend six days a week working out on Gravitrons and drinking protein shakes.
Aside from water, The War Boys and Joe’s other minions keep Joe swimming in enough gasoline to power an enormous fleet of more second-hand vehicles than a CarMax superstore. Having control of all the water, vehicles, fuel and soldiers makes Joe powerful enough to own a harem of the five hottest women left on the planet. In a post-apocalyptic world where a lot of the people are ugly mutants, you’d think that an uglier mutant like Joe would be happy with one or two fives. But no. Joe, the greedy bastard, hangs with five tens. Where does he get the energy?
It’s due to these supermodels that the thin plot thickens like a pot of filetto di pomodoro sauce left on simmer for too long. While Imperator Furiosa, Joe’s one-armed lieutenant played by Charlize Theron, is on a routine supply run, she smuggles the hot chicks out of The Citadel. Why? Because otherwise there would be no movie, that’s why.
Theron, sporting a buzz cut that would make Sinead O’Connor envious, wants to take the girls to “the Green Place,” which is either paradise on Earth or a pot farm just outside of Melbourne. It’s also Furiosa’s original home, controlled by an all-female clan called the Vulvalini. The Vulvalini either take their name from a type of pornographic pasta or a Star Trek satire. If this was an American Western movie, they’d probably be called The Vaginians.
Max, a wandering paladin, suffers flashbacks of his dead family while he munches on a lizard. Max is stricken with guilt that he couldn’t save them, and keeps on imagining his little daughter trying to snatch his lizard. The title character is played by Englishman Tom Hardy, but he’s really a supporting player in this exciting, uh, drama. In fact, this is Charlize Theron’s movie and should have been titled Fast and Furiosa.
Max and Furiosa, who initially distrust each other to the point where they beat the hell out of each other in a well-choreographed fight, eventually unite in battle. This sets up the flaming destruction of a bazillion two, four and eight wheeled vehicles as the band of sisters fight their way to the Green Place. Furiosa, with some help from Max, has to outrun (in no particular order of importance) a clan of Ewoks on dirt bikes, Joe’s minions, a bunch of creepy stilt-walkers known as the “Crows,” a gang run by the repulsive “People Eater,” and another gang run by the even more repulsive “Bullet Farmer.” Presumably, post-apocalyptic bullets are lovingly grown from seed. In between explosions, the characters exchange a few words of what passes for dialog.
Theron is so beautiful that she looks great despite having no hair and only half a left arm. And as a tall, skinny one-armed woman, Theron fights like tall, skinny one-armed women can only fight in movies. In his supporting role, the best thing to be said about Tom Hardy is that he wasn’t Oliver Hardy. Hardy – Tom that is — is not as handsome as Gibson at the same age, but worst of all he lacks that all-important charisma that one expects from a wandering desert nomad who thinks that a mutant lizard is a nice snack.
The best actor of the lot was Nicholas Hoult as “Nux,” a War Boy who strives to die in battle, earning his way into “Valhalla” where he will be greeted by all the others dupes who died serving Immortan Joe. While the Valhalla of Norse legend is well-known, what probably nobody in this movie knew is that Valhalla is also the name of a “correctional facility” in New York, which is exactly where Nux deserved to be. Nevertheless, although Nux starts out fiendishly stealing Max’s blood, Hoult ends up cleverly stealing the movie as Nux mends his homicidal ways for the love of a good woman. Who, not surprisingly, is a supermodel. Which is a third definition of Valhalla.
The rest of the movie is all the total, nonstop action that $150 million can buy, which is plenty. Bombs and vehicle impacts do a lot of the dirty work in Fury Road, but there’s plenty of gunplay and a pretty good assortment of firearms that are used to great effect in slaughtering Furiosa’s enemies.
Charlize Theron – a fanatical gun-hater in what she probably calls “real life” – shooting a modified, scoped SKS accurately at long range is a joy to behold. Cast members call the SKS “the big boy,” which tells us how far the post-apocalyptic world has fallen. Not content with long-range rifle shooting, Theron also wields a sawed-off side-by-side shotgun, for which she has no ATF tax stamp. Furiosa’s war wagon is also stocked with a sweet Luger P08, a Webley .455, a Webley flare gun, a bushel basket of other, assorted firearms and enough ammo to constitute what in modern journalistic parlance is known as a “hoard.”
Both Furiosa and Max employ GLOCK 17s to do their business, proving that even TEOTWAWKI can’t stop a GLOCK. Then again, Max also wields a Taurus PT92 which seems to have survived the apocalypse quite well.
The Vulvalini, who are a bunch of old hags (except for a naked body double who deserves her own movie), have the most interesting, uh, weapons. One middle-ager does her sharpshooting with a lever action Rossi M92, while an old biddy takes her head shots (on men only, because, well, men) with a cool Pennsylvania flintlock rifle. The old charmer’s motto is, “one man, one bullet.”
Among the bad guys, the Bullet Farmer totes a pair of Heckler & Koch MP5K-PDWs, shooting two at a time, one in each hand, and mostly missing. But it looks cool. The star of the firearms show is Immortan Joe’s pristine Colt Python in stainless. As always.
Fury Road is loud, but not that loud. It’s rated R for violence and disturbing images, such as a host of huge-breasted obese women being milked, but there’s not a lot of gore. As actioners go, this one is close to top of the line. However, as I watched Fury Road, it struck me — a group of desperate and attractive people struggling to get home and fighting off gangs of crazies in wild costumes, nutty makeup and fright masks. Now, where had I seen that before?
Fury Road is Mad Max meets The Warriors, with much better effects and stunts. Like Fury Road, The Warriors also featured an all-female clan, called The Lizzies. Get it? The Lizzies didn’t like men and they were bad. The Vulvalini in Fury Road is an all-female clan that doesn’t like men and they are good. The featured female in The Warriors was a weak sister. The featured female in Fury Road is a kick-ass. Furiosa is trying to get home to a paradise on Earth called “the Green Place.” The Warriors gang was trying to get home to a paradise on earth called The Bronx.
Secondly, this movie does not like men. Is Fury Road a feminist take on The Warriors” and Mad Max? Probably. In the original concept, Max was probably supposed to rescue the concubines, but the idea of one guy stealing a bunch of hot chicks from another guy didn’t work. Okay, but then he hired Eve Ensler of The Vagina Monologues infamy to vet the script, turning it into feminist propaganda where every man is depicted as bad or nuts, including Max who after all is Mad, and all the women are cool, fearless and nice. So you make the call.
[SPOILER ALERT] At the end of the show, Max and Furiosa take over The Citadel and liberate the masses, who celebrate with a refreshing bucket of water. As Furiosa rides the human-powered elevator up toward her future, she looks around for Max. He’s not coming. As a road warrior, it’s Max’s fate to wander the Earth, searching for redemption and a nice dish of lizard. And a hot chick with two hands and flowing hair and maybe even a Colt Python in Royal Blue. We’ll see what happens to Max when the sequel is released in a year or two.
Model: Mad Max: Fury Road
Length: 120 minutes
Price: $150 million (est.)
RATINGS (out of five bullets):
Style * * * * *
The action starts out crazy, gets crazier and rarely stops to catch its breath. The battle scenes are breathtaking, and watching all the gasoline-powered vehicles being blown up will warm the cockles of Al Gore’s heart. The cinematography and art direction are incredibly lush. Never in the history of movies has utter desolation looked so good.
Reliability * * *
Some will find the political messaging objectionable. Some will find the lack of a plot even more objectionable. Most will find Furiosa’s haircut completely objectionable.
OVERALL RATING * * * *
Action fans will enjoy it.