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I’m a huge fan of the MAD MAX series and I have been waiting for MAD MAX FURY ROAD for what seems to be forever. It was a long road for director George Miller to get this sucka off the ground; the lad initially got the idea for FURY ROAD in 1998 and the movie was set to shoot in 2001 with Mel Gibson as Max. Alas, 911 happened and killed the economy. Then the production lost Gibson (drunken sugar tits tirade made him persona non grata) and Heath Ledger was rumored to take over the role of Max before he passed on. It seemed that the film was just not meant to be. The smoke finally did clear though and FURY ROAD got the green light with Tom Hardy as Max! Now here it is! So did it live to my HIGH expectations? Was it worth the ridiculously long wait? For the most part YES but I do have one hefty NO to snipe your way. Rev up your engines, lets ride!
You have to keep in mind that this drivel comes from a dude (yes me) who grew up on the original MAD MAX trilogy. I mean THE ROAD WARRIOR was one of the key films that marked me early on and helped shape the filmgoer and filmmaker that I am today. I’ve probably seen that film more than 200 times! It is one of my Holy Grails; hence MAD MAX FURY ROAD had some big ass army boots to fill. This new sequel/quasi reboot started off with a roar and rarely let up action wise till the end credits rolled. My generation had to take in story and character development before earning the “goodies” like we did in THE ROAD WARIOR but in a sly move Miller didn’t play that card with this fourth entry, he knew that today’s audience has the attention span of a macro, so he started off with a bang, and then bang-bang-banged non-stop for two hours. The result was an assault on the senses that has to be seen to be believed. Pulling that vibe off while retaining enough story and character meat to hold my interest was no small feat but Miller was BEYOND up to the task! I have to hand it to the lad; the vehicular mayhem he orchestrated here simply blew my f*cking mind into mash potatoes. MAD MAX FURY ROAD was basically the last 25 minutes of THE ROAD WARRIOR (still one of the most visceral action scenes ever put together) stretched out and added upon for 2 hours!
The stunts were of the old school variety i.e. done by stunt men not CGI concoctions and the creativity behind the action set pieces was cranked to “anything goes”! Every time I thought the film couldn’t top itself in the “how to up the stakes on a motor vehicle chase” department – it would! This was pure insanity stamped on celluloid! Huge props to 70 years old George Miller who should pat himself on the back and the ass for what he pulled off here. Not only was the bulk of the shots found in this film “iconic” but he just schooled every young action director of the last decade as to “how to do it perfectly right” with this ride! WOW! Personally, the scene that stood out for me the most was the bit with the foes on dirt bikes, doing jumps while Max and Furiosa played pin the bullets on the baddies. I got freaking chills when that went down. Really man, I can’t think of the last time that I got to witness such a beautifully orchestrated action sequence.
What about the human elements you may ask? Well at the end of the neck-snap this was Chalize Theron’s show through and through. She gave me a likeable, somewhat tortured and well-rounded action heroine, one to root for! You can add Furiosa’s name to the Sarah Connor and Helen Ripley list – WELL EARNED! Nicholas Hoult was also memorable in a fairly out there role; one that he tackled with gusto while the “Five Wives” and the "old ladies" came through as well. It was cool that they were more than just damsels in distress; they also took part in the action and let the bodies hit the floor. Add to all that a narrative and characters that were defined by action, sleek cinematography (by Oscar winner John Seale), gnarly production designs (like those porcupine cars), a badass soundtrack by Junkie XL, one of the coolest characters ever put on screen (yup, that guitar playing dude) and a huge set of balls put proudly on display when it came to elaborate carnage and you get the most exhilarating and purely INSANE action film of the year thus far!
Now for the bad news: There was a “left field” love story that came out of nowhere but I chose to go with it. Whatever. The real problem here was that I didn’t like how the film handled the character of Mad Max. You know the dude who’s name is in the title?! Mel Gibson was cool, calm and somber as Max - and he didn't give a shit half the time. Hardy's Max was awkward, came off like he had PTS or a mental ailment and the “visions” he had of his dead family were overkill i.e. not needed. Yes, Max is in constant mourning; but you didn’t need to ham fist it my way. Now that I think of it, Furiosa was the true Mad Max here. She was closer to the original character than Hardy’s Max was. They could've cut Max out and just called the film Mad Furiosa and it still would have worked. All that to say; when you have a film called MAD MAX FURY ROAD and I go see it, I expect to see the Mad Max I know and love in the lead kicking ass and taking names and that’s not what I got; Hardy’s Max didn’t reflect the original character enough for my liking –and the film focused more on Furiosa, which would have been great if the film wasn’t called MAD MAX. It’s like having a James Bond film with M in the lead and Bond there to support her.
On the whole though; MAD MAX FURY ROAD was a bold, rock and roll and pedal to the ground action fest that barely stopped for a pee break! As much as I like character development and build-up, I won’t bullshit ya, I wasn’t complaining here! George Miller hasn’t piped down with age and the result was one of the most impactful action films put to celluloid in the last 30 years. THANK YOU GEORGE MILLER!