Movie Review: Watching the world burn in “Mad Max: Fury Road”.
“My world is fire and blood” are the first words we hear in George Miller’s frenzied, Dadaist chase movie — “Fury Road”, the fourth entry in his cult-approved “Mad Max” series — and if there is a more elemental summation of a movie’s primary concerns in 2015, I have yet to hear it. Those looking for character, nuance, restraint and meaning should look elsewhere. Those in search of a fire-breathing journey into the belly of the behemoth — a celebration of all things kinky and nasty, a pedal-to-the-medal Hollywood blockbuster that’s genuinely artful and the first feminist action flick of the year — are in for a real treat.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” is a mighty, crazed beast of a film, belching flames and heavy metal riffs and lizard blood. It is pure bugfuck lunacy, like Cirque de Soleil as performed by GWAR on a mobile tour bus, that is, put simply, unlike any action cinema to come before it or after it. That doesn’t exactly make it a masterpiece or even a truly great film, but as someone who wasn’t exactly bowled over by the first and third films in the “Max” trilogy (“The Road Warrior” being the exception) I’d argue it’s an important one.
Tom Hardy, perpetually sneering and suggesting a great deal with very little, opens the film running for his life and the relentless pace of death-race surivalism never lets up. Max Rockanatasky — haunted by the ghosts of those he cannot save and first seen chewing on the head of a two-headed desert gecko — is on the run from the War Boys, a corpse-painted, jacked-up gang of zealots who worship at the altar of Immortan Joe. Immortan Joe, played by the dude who was credited as Toecutter in the original “Max” looks like a hair-metal dandy pumped up on steroids and adorned with a mask of horse’s teeth and ghastly white hair. He’s ridiculous and dumb and amazing and completely in keeping with this transgressive film’s brutal ethos.
Joe recruits his War Boys to fight on his behalf, promising them salvation in the afterlife while siphoning breast milk from a harem of imprisoned women for his own twisted use. So you see, it’s that kind of movie. Generally, you’ll know where you stand on matters like this in the first fifteen minutes. When we first see our hero Max, he’s at his most helpless and vulnerable: hooked up to a “blood bag” driven by a frothing-mad War Boy named Nux (Nicholas Hoult, terrific) and being driven to his imminent death. He is saved, in a spectacular, show-stopping early chase scene, by a one-armed vigilante named Furiosa. (Charlize Theron, radiating a deep sympathy and wounded compassion) Furiosa, we learn, is driving a rig full of nubile, beautiful women through the scorched, godless wasteland so that they may escape the tyrannical clutches of Joe and his goons. What ensues is half raging dream and half urgent, bleeding reality and about fifty different kinds of crazy. It may send more conservative viewers running for the hills, but this freaky film is a thing of real beauty.
Miller’s pacing is extraordinary and his imagination is vivid and electric, seeming to have sprung from the ninth circle of hell itself. The chase scenes are a glory to behold — demonic warriors sashaying through the air like veteran dancers, exploding balls of fire, surging storms of steel and leather and blood. There’s one car that’s rigged at least twenty feet high with huge amplifiers and a War Boy drumline, while a one-eyed ghoul shreds gnarly metal riffs on a six string. Oh, and his guitar’s a flamethrower. It is entirely unnecessary to the plot but, in a way, it pretty much sums up the attitude of the movie: leave exposition at home, because in the Wasteland, mood and style is everything. The heavy-metal loving 13-year old in me was tickled. A-