Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Movie Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

Genre: action
Director: George Miller
Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Those of us who are old enough to remember the first Mad Max film  the 1979 box office hit that made Mel Gibson an overnight sensation – have been wondering for months if the fourth installment would live up to all the media hype. Well, the movie opened this past Thursday and the verdict is a resounding “yes.”

Mad Max: Fury Road by George Miller

Fury Road picks up where Thunderdome (the last of the trilogy) left off. We are in a post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland, where water, gasoline and greenery are scarce commodities. What little there is left is hoarded up in a place called the Citadel, ruled by a misshapen cult leader who called himself Immortan Joe. Max, the protagonist, is a loner-survivor haunted by the death of his wife and child. For reasons that will become clear soon, he and a one-armed woman warrior named Furiosa become fugitives pursued by Joe and an army of War Boys reminiscent of the gang in A Clockwork Orange.

The plot is as linear as a straight line. The entire story is made up of two long chase scenes: one going from the Citadel to the desert, and the other from the desert back to the Citadel. That’s pretty much it. Director George Miller, who created the Mad Max franchise some three decades ago, is not afraid of cutting to the chase, both figuratively and literally. There is barely any dialogue or narration – at times the movie feels like a silent film, or a bizarre ballet with heavy-metal music and vrooming hot rods. If you don’t buy into all that car-porn, you can get action-scene fatigued about 10 minutes into the movie. But if you do, you will sit back, relax and take in the non-stop action that hurtles on for two hours.

Tom Hardy as Max, but you can hardly see his face

To balance the testosterone level, there is plenty of gender politics tossed in. Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron) is a rig-driving, throat-slitting renegade who is tougher than tough guy Max (played by Tom Hardy). She incurs the wrath of Immortan Joe by rescuing from his palace a harem of skimpily-dressed multiracial sex slaves who look more like supermodels in an outdoor photo shoot for a Benetton ad. Furiosa takes the good-looking women to the “Green Place of Many Mothers,” a sanctuary guarded by a dwindling tribe of motorcycle grannies. Juxtaposed those images against the revolting cult leader and his borderline deranged War Boys, it is clear what the subliminal message is: men are power-hungry, blood-thirsty and gross, whereas women are fierce, diverse and nurturing. No wonder men’s rights groups are writing strongly worded letters to Warner Brothers.

British heartthrob Tom Hardy plays the lead role made famous by Mel Gibson. Undaunted by the big shoes he has to fill, Hardy is as charismatic as he was in his previous supporting roles in Christopher Nolan’s blockbusters. Much to his fans’ disappointment, however, his pretty face is covered by a metal muzzle for much of the film, just as it was when he played Bain in Batman: The Dark Knight Rises – not that it really matters because Max hardly says a word in the entire movie.

Furiosa and the beautiful women she is trying to save

If Hardy is the new, beefier Mel Gibson, then Charlize Theron must be the new Sigourney Weaver. The South African belle is an artist with range: one moment she stars in a gorgeous ad campaign for Dior, and the next moment she plays an amputee who shoots better than any man within a hundred mile radius. It is only a matter of time before Theron is tapped to play Ellen Ripley in the Alien franchise.

Fury Road is the ultimate cult film. It is bold, outrageous and downright weird. There were times in the theater when I thought I was high on some kind of psychedelic drug. The movie is escapist entertainment in its purest, most pleasurable form. My only gripe is that Tina Turner wasn’t asked to play one of the motorcycle grannies for old time’s sake. 


This article appears on SCMP.com under the title "Ultimate cult film: why the Mad Max sequel 'Fury Road' lives up to the hype."

As posted on SCMP.com

1 comment:

  1. Avant-garde action cinema on an enormous scale that manages to be utterly original and suffused with a rebellion against patriarchy that is thrilling to watch in this form.