Wandering the post-apocalyptic wasteland hardens the exterior. Your skin becomes bulletproof. The wind and sand batter your body like nuclear fallout. The harsh sunlight vulcanizes you, making you seem impervious to physical pain. The body parts you’ve pried from the radiator grill of your muscle car makes your humanity speed away from you like the last of the V-8 Interceptors. You don’t run into too many people down at the grocery store that was blasted into atoms decades ago by governments drunk on power and vainglory. Unfortunately, if you find yourself in a life and death situation, surrounded by six gorgeous women, you no longer have the ammo needed to hit on them. Jesus, most of us aren’t surrounded by six good looking chicks like that in a year. Maybe the apocalypse won’t be so bad, after all.
George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road is a horror movie masquerading as a turbo charged action flick. It is mostly one long chase along a desolate road on a nightmarish landscape that seems inspired by a devilish Salvatore Dali painting. As the audience watches the villain Immortan Joe’s(Hugh Keays-Byrne) convoy of souped up, mutant war machines in pursuit of the anti-heroes, the images of Dali’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony might be conjured in your brain. It is like watching Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show blow into town, with all manner of monsters and creepy clowns hanging from the cars. I would like to point out that I saw Asimov Lives and Killik comment on its surreal nature in a talkback and I agree, wholeheartedly.
The film contains enough elements from horror that I really believe that the engine that drives it is powered by fuel made from the biological breakdown of demon’s guts. Watching someone cut open as Immortan Joe looks on is particularly disturbing. It isn’t something usually seen in a big-budget action flick. However, it is welcome. The return to bloody R-rated mayhem was a long time coming. Fury Road would most likely wipe its greasy ass with the superhero costumes from many of the PG movies taking up space in our multiplexes.
Max Rockatansky is now played by the powerful and, I am told by my lady friends, devilishly handsome Tom Hardy. Fuck it, I would probably make out with him, too. You see how ripped he was in Warrior? And Bronson? Hardy will be the new Clint Eastwood or Harrison Ford and Fury Road just solidifies this. He grunts and growls his way through the carnage and even into our hearts, in a vehicular manslaughter kind of way.
The opening finds Max captured by Immortan Joe’s henchman and fixed up to be a “blood bag” for him and his dying war boys. Immortan Joe, wearing a creepy ventilator mask, is basically a vampire, taking blood transfusions for himself and his war boys to prolong their “half-life.” In a scene where Max briefly breaks away from them as he is being branded as Joe’s property, he is chased by the bald, bleached war boys and it reminds us of the last man on earth being pursued by vile blood suckers, hissing and moaning as their dinner is escaping.
Immortan Joe is a charlatan who promises his war boys eternal life in Valhalla after they have served his purposes here. He is a rainmaker, who rations water to the dried and decaying populace below. From high atop machinery that could have been borrowed from the set of Metropolis, Immortan Joe offers the dying below platitudes and solace in the fact that he is looking out for their best interest . He is basically no different from many throughout history–dictators, despots and demagogues who used their charisma and brute force to suppress the masses while they prospered.
Imperator Furiosa, played well by Charlize Theron sporting a shaved head and mechanical arm, has grown tired of doing the bidding of Immortan Joe and she escapes with his breeders. These are beautiful young woman who he impregnates in hopes of gaining a male heir. I guess seeing the trolls left behind to bang, Immortan Joe goes ape shit and unleashes the armada on wheels after Furiosa. Max, now a blood bag for one of the war boys, is mounted on a pole fixed on the hood of a car and witnesses the mayhem as he is chained up like Hannibal Lektor. There are a few humorous moments as we can see Max’s eyes go wide as bodies and vehicles fly past his head like dishes being thrown by an angry housewife.
Circumstances, mainly a huge sandstorm with lightning blasting people and machinery from its monstrous vortex, find Max and Furiosa forming a fragile, begrudging alliance to escape the vampire Immortan Joe’s army of almost dead zealots. Max and Furiosa are joined by the 5 breeders and Nux(Nicholas Hoult) a war boy, once fueled by blind loyalty to Immortan Joe and the promise of vehicular Valhalla. Like most loyal disciples of cult leaders, Nux sees that Joe is a fraud and he befriends Max and Furiosa, and he sparks a platonic romance with one of the breeders which is both touching and tragic.
Tom Hardy makes a fine substitute for Mel Gibson. Will he make us forget Mel’s turn as Max? Nope, but that doesn’t mean that Hardy wasn’t the perfect choice as a replacement. Hardy is capable of raging like a drunken Gibson at a bar mitzvah. He is also capable of replacing pages of tired dialogue with a look or a turn of his head. His action pose is solid and he looks comfortable running atop moving vehicles and fucking up the bad guys in tough situations.
You need not worry and think that old man Miller lost his touch. The chases in Fury Road should leave you thrilled and make you feel like you are in the driver seat of some of the marauding cars and trucks, many of them retrofitted with machine guns, flame throwers and spikes. Unlike many of today’s action films, you can actually tell what is going on. Not everyone can direct an action movie and Miller is one of the masters. Like the great truck scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the chases in Fury Road at least comply to a law of physics that exists within the world of the film. Every action has a reaction and consequence. The vehicles have weight and when they crash they crumble, bend and break apart. If there was CGI used it was used sparingly and tough to notice.
If you were stuck on the tarmac on Fury Road, you would be splattered across the pavement within minutes. Get in your Hyundai and roll through a few stop signs on the way to the theater. Fury Road is a great time and I look forward to another one with Hardy and Miller at the helm.