Mad Max: Fury Road

Cars 3: Car-cass

Starring: Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy

Review written by Robert D. Patrick

Windshields are matted by fingerprints, rust-colored sand envelopes the world, and blood specked incisors tear away at any semblance of humanity. Director George Miller’s easel is made of bones and sinew, the canvas lacquered with saliva and sweat. Mad Max: Fury Road is punctuated with filleted wheel rubber and scudding gasoline. With his newest opus, Miller, the captain behind the original dystopian trilogy of Mad Max pictures, resumes his role as ringleader and firecracker lighter. The newest iteration of the death-before-dialogue series adds a straight jacket to the source material. This is the kind of action film that no American director could make: mechanized breast pumps and cysts with names? I don’t think so. No, here in the carousel of Australian director George Miller’s mind, conventional action will simply not do. There is more H.R. Giger and Francis Bacon under the hood of this car than there is Michael Bay or John McTiernan.

The plot is skeletal as you can imagine. The world has been eradicated by a fallout, and the survivors cling to animus and gasoline. Utopia for the mangled and marred survivors lies in the hope of filling their sand-baked jars with water or food. Of course, when the livin’ is hard, there is always some maniacal opportunist with the heart of a buzz saw to preside over the weary. Here, the villain is a moribund antagonist with the artificial jaws of a piranha. When the aforementioned malefactor loses something that “belongs” to him, we, as an audience, become spectators to the great roadshow of inverted metal and revving engines that is so famous to the Mad Max franchise.

Losing his mind, a gravelly-voiced Max (Tom Hardy) is taken hostage by wiry, pale-faced bandits. In captivity, he is subject to heinous punishments that give him throngs of flashbacks. He has a dark past, we assume, because of the flickering memories that strafe his brain throughout the film. Hardy’s compact but surly stature fits the casting for callous-palmed antihero, but he has little to do in the way of acting. Ever since his breakthrough in Bronson, he has been given fewer and fewer lines in films. In his next movie I’m literally expecting him to play a monolith. Give the guy some dialogue. While Fury Road boasts the Mad Max name, Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa is the marquee star of the carnage. She is the true protagonist of the film, and becomes an unlikely ally to the disheveled Max, giving him purpose and direction.

While Fury Road sounds like a Sega Genesis title, and plays like a midnight movie with an insidiously large budget, it has more technical prowess than one would expect. Everything from the sound editing to the effects is intensely articulate. And while there is no doubt that the movie is deliberately derivative of itself, this film also borrows heavily from the aesthetics of video games such as Borderlands, Fallout, Road Rash, and Twisted Metal. The adrenaline fueled narrative is like Run Lola Run on wheels. And the dirt-smeared, chrome-transfixed set design is reminiscent of MTV’s Liquid Television. But the litany of comparisons would not exist if not for Miller’s original Mad Max film. It’s truly a barbed circle, one that is a necessary watch on a large screen.

Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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