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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 13.89%
Average: 2.78%
Pretty Bad: 5.56%
Total Crap: 11.11%

7 reviews, 30 user ratings

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Mad Max: Fury Road
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Brett Gallman

"Maybe we did need another hero after all."
5 stars

Genuine subversion is hard to come by in major Hollywood filmmaking, especially when it carries a price tag well north of a $100 million. We live in an era where blockbusters especially are generally commoditized so as to be unchallenging, meant to herd audiences in and out of the auditorium without much of a fuss. Confrontation is rare, but, then again, George Miller is a rare filmmaker whose signature franchise is rarer still. Since debuting “Mad Max” in 1979, Miller has had more interest in reinvention than he has retreading, and the latest entry is no exception: “Fury Road” doesn’t just kick the tires on a moribund series—it brings it roaring back to life with a fiery passion that carries its audience to some daring places.

Only briefly does Miller deliver what is expected of a fourth “Mad Max” film: upon reintroducing the warrior of the wasteland, he captures Max (Tom Hardy) surveying a devastated world, where he muses on those who haunt them, those lost souls he couldn’t save—and then he bites the head off of a mutant lizard. Soon, though, a pack of marauders in the employ of local warlord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keys-Byrne) interrupts and begins chase: before long, Max’s signature Interceptor is wheels up, its driver captured and imprisoned by these “war boys.”

Max goes on the spend a disconcerting amount of time either hanging upside down or strapped to the hood of a car as a wide-eyed war boy (Nicholas Hoult) harvests his blood. The film might carry his name, but you sense that Max isn’t set to resume the savior routine that propelled him to mythical status by the end of the previous films. He’s beaten, muzzled, and flailing in the wasteland wind as Immortan Joe’s war party hunts down one of its own: Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has gone rogue on a routine supply run and has smuggled away precious cargo in the form of Joe’s five wives. Raised exclusively for child-rearing, this quintet has defiantly broken rank in search of “The Green Place,” a legendary oasis resting beyond the arid horizon.

Their defiance kicks off a movie-long car chase, an audacious conceit made even more so by Miller’s breathless sense of scale, scope, and pacing. Quite frankly, “Fury Road” embarrasses an entire generation of American action cinema over the course of two nitrous-fuelled hours. Imagine the climactic chase in “The Road Warrior” elevated to Biblical proportions, with multiple convoys tailing Max and Furiosa after they form a loose alliance. Set against a wasteland that alternates between blood-orange daylight and moody, ethereal night skies, the chase unfolds with incredible propulsion and precision. Watching it is to bear witness to a lunatic projecting his imagination: Miller is less a director and more a ringmaster presiding over the world’s most deranged post-apocalyptic circus, only the animals have been replaced with twisted metal and fire.

It is the greatest—and perhaps last—show on this bombed out Earth, where the junkyards have become mobile death machines. Each spare scrap has been reassembled into Frankensteined vehicles, with frames sitting atop other frames, and outfitted with weaponry. Every single one hints at a larger, lived-in universe: consider it world-building at a 100 miles-per-hour, as Miller rarely stops to expound upon the rich mythos he’s orchestrated here. Instead, he wheels out a dude playing a flaming guitar and expects you to go with it: here’s a world that’s gone mad, yet not so much that it’s abandoned military pageantry—where previous regiments marched to bugles and drums, these roar to the tune of clanging metal chords and industrial pounding.

Warfare itself is equally unorthodox: some soldiers toss bombs from motorcycles, while others dangle precariously from poles. Miller’s commitment to clarity renders some astounding compositions: “Fury Road” is chaos on a grand scale, yet that’s never an excuse to indulge in disorienting filmmaking. He didn’t labor over this project for the better part of a decade only to obscure it with lazy editing and camerawork. One of the chief pleasures of “Fury Road” is wondering just how in the hell they pulled this off without the answer simply being “computers.” Its practicality is key in crafting such a vast canvas of jaw-dropping stunt-work and vehicular carnage—this is cinema as a demolition derby crossed with a high-wire act, and each sequence is more breathtaking than the last.

If “Fury Road” were only preoccupied with one-upping the sheer mayhem of “The Road Warrior,” it would be an unqualified success. Sound and fury have rarely been more exquisitely orchestrated, which is no small feat considering the deluge of loud action movies that have competed for our eyeballs in recent years alone. “Fury Road” doesn’t just raise the bar: it sets the bar on fire and practically blasts it into space.

Speaking of it in such terms almost feels like a disservice, though, especially since it reeks of sort of macho bullshit “Fury Road” attempts to evade. You expect a film carrying the “Mad Max” manner to be weird and badass, and Miller obliges by amplifying both factors—yet it hardly seems to be his chief preoccupation. Rather, it’s a surface level affectation, a sort of Trojan horse (with spikes, flames, etc.) for him to smuggle in his real concerns and agenda for “Fury Road.” With the legend of “Mad Max” firmly entrenched in popular culture as a masculine icon (whether it’s deserved or not), it only follows that fourth entry would wallow in testosterone and octane, right?

Well, not really. These films have never actually been about any of that, and “Fury Road” couldn’t make that any clearer—it’s almost as if Miller saw the mentality that inspired the likes of Bellflower” and felt the need to set the record straight. There’s a soul to these films that makes them resonate—Max is a messianic warrior upholding justice for those who can’t help themselves. “Fury Road” radically twists this notion by reminding viewers that Max is just as broken as the world around him.

Far removed from Mel Gibson’s portrayal, Hardy grunts his way through most of the film like a man who has forgotten what it’s like to actually interact with other human beings. His relatively eloquent voiceovers remind us of what he’s lost, but it almost feels superfluous since Hardy’s eyes and body language communicate so much so much anguish and loss. For the first time, he seems truly mad, like a dog lost in a world that keeps burning.

When takes a backseat during film’s first act, it signals Furiosa’s commandeering of the story: it appears that Miller has resurrected masculine icon Mad Max after thirty years only to have a woman hijack the proceedings—and it’s awesome. Along with Joe’s wives (all as resourceful as they are gorgeous), Furiosa becomes the true heart of the film’s feminist leanings—ultimately, “Fury Road” is a film about women who have found themselves reduced to objects in a wasteland that is not too far removed from our own world, at least in this respect.

In Theron, Miller finds a perfect cipher for this pent-up rage, her Furiosa an avatar for women who have been physically broken but solider on regardless. Never is “Fury Road” more efficient than it is when it establishes its intimate stakes through Theron’s grizzled, haunted face, which carries a lifetime of regret, anger, and shame, a sort of kindred spirit for Max who can’t help but remain at a distance.

As alike as Max and Furiosa are, they still butt heads, and Miller never has the latter defer (in fact, her prominence is signaled by Theron’s top billing in the opening credits). A less graceful hand would simply invert the Mad Max formula by completely pushing the title character to the background, but Miller strikes a clever balance: neither Max nor Furiosa are each other’s savior, but rather, each other’s wheelman at various points. Every beat in their relationship (not to mention the arc for Hoult’s War Boy) is in the service of redeeming not only Max and Furiosa but also the action genre’s calcified gender dynamics. “Fury Road” is a film about women and men working together as equals to literally reverse course through both empathy and violence—in the end, the only way out is through. Running away from sexism is not nearly as effective as driving a war rig right through its heart.

When you consider “Fury Road” in these terms, it seems like a coup: in a film where you’re left constantly in awe by each moment, it’s somehow more astounding that the entire thing exists in the first place. Miller seems like some kind of mad insurgent who convinced a major studio to throw $150 million at a franchise revival that continually subverts expectations. I can only imagine how tempting it must have been for the suits to tinker and toy with this big, weird megaton bomb in an attempt to mold it into something less fussy. Thankfully, they’ve left it alone and allowed it to raise glorious, fiery hell.

And yet, perhaps nothing is more amazing than this: for all its hellraising, the most enduring moments of “Fury Road” occur between the fumes of fire and fuel. In a film that has its characters ride straight through apocalyptic tornadoes and sandstorms, I’ll mostly remember the smaller moments, like the way Max gestures like a child when a character hatches a plan. I’ll remember the Biblical grandeur of Immortan Joe’s parched throng worshipping at his feet as he allows a precious, limited supply of water rain down on their ashen faces.

I’ll remember Max allowing Furiosa to rest a sniper rifle on his shoulder to take a shot he can’t make. I’ll remember how a late film detour has over a half-dozen women warriors takes the stage to decide their own fates, all of them discussing anything other than men. I’ll remember the simple but profound proclamation made by Joe’s wives: “we are not things."

But most of all, I’ll remember a new road warrior, a proud woman named Furiosa who—along with several other women—headlined a “Mad Max” movie and took this franchise to sublime new heights.

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originally posted: 05/20/15 11:12:27
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Cannes Film Festival For more in the 2015 Cannes Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/11/19 bored mom Immortan Joe himself says it best: "MEDIOCRE" 3 stars
8/22/17 Mark Louis Baumgart So shiny. So chrome. I live! I die! I LIVE AGAIN!!! 5 stars
5/30/17 Danny Embarrasingly bad, feminist propaganda. 1 stars
10/30/16 morris campbell the plot was messy but still the best action movie of 2015 5 stars
9/09/16 Yaz What was the point of practical stunts if everything was sped up and looked videogame like? 1 stars
6/19/16 Oz1701 Stunts were amazing. Charlize was terrific. Plotting was terrible. 2 stars
1/21/16 DVM Absolutely terrible. An insult to my intelligence. 1 stars
10/27/15 Johnnyfaye Often called a masterpiece, for how simple it is, it's refreshing lack of CGI, fantastic. 5 stars
10/18/15 christefan26 Best movie I've scene in a long time and I watch movies constantly 5 stars
10/05/15 G. Best action movie this year. 5 stars
8/28/15 Billy34 Mad Max minus the screen presence, charisma and his balls. 1 stars
8/24/15 DillonG Incredibly fun from beginning to end! Everything I want out of a blockbuster. 5 stars
7/26/15 jd shit review, shit comments, great movie 5 stars
6/25/15 Cal L Mundane Max tags along with Mad Maxine and glamourous models 1 stars
6/23/15 wfibcdxjl USA 5 stars
6/09/15 TonyK The baddies chase the goodies ..thats it! 2 stars
6/08/15 Lisa H I can't remember the last time I got so bored with an action movie. 2 stars
6/06/15 mr.mike Good, not great, remake. 4 stars
6/02/15 Charles Tatum Throws you in and never lets up 5 stars
5/30/15 Nancy Love! Adrenaline-rushy, cool imagery, action-packed. 5 stars
5/29/15 Joey C The Road Warrior is still the best. This sucked and Tom Hardy was terrible. 1 stars
5/25/15 Damien240 Spectacular, exhilarating action, stunning visuals. Falls just short of a masterpiece. 5 stars
5/25/15 David Marsden Too much repetitive action, too much CGI, and Tom Hardy sucks. Mel is Max. 1 stars
5/22/15 David Hollingsworth An action thrill ride that actually delivers 4 stars
5/21/15 Toni Peluso Awesome. A spectacle in every wonderful way. 5 stars
5/20/15 Meep Good solid action film, but far from the masterpiece some want you to believe 4 stars
5/18/15 KingNeutron Unable to understand dialogue and I honestly got bored with it. 3 stars
5/17/15 Bob Dog Too much of a good thing... 2 stars
5/16/15 Slayer Feminist propaganda bullshit 1 stars
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  15-May-2015 (R)
  DVD: 01-Sep-2015

  14-May-2015 (15)

  14-May-2015 (MA)
  DVD: 01-Sep-2015

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