In a post-apocalyptic world that looks like the Australian outback, Peter Stringfellow has stolen all the water. He is the King, lording it from his evil mountain base, staffed by albino dwarves, who believe he’ll grant them passage to Valhalla (the afterlife, not a Melbourne nightclub).
Enter a nameless drifter, film fans know as Max (Tom Hardy), who is immediately strapped to a gurney and forced to take part in a Road War; involving death, acrobatics, chainsaws, and numerous combinations of the above. Welcome to George Miller’s 2015 version of the action movie; pulling no punches as a delirious maelstrom of sound and fury. Fans of his 1979 original or newbies won’t be disappointed; they’ll be gobsmacked.
Unlike so many comicbook flicks and genre sequels, the plot is not worried about McGuffins, Shankara stones, mystical revelations or wise men with beards. The rules are simple. Survive. Drive the damn cars and trucks. Do not get eviscerated by bullet, spike or wheel and get from A to B.
Like Top Gear, but with nicer people.
If the setting and premise seem familiar, the sequences that unfold do not. The first wheel-spinning stunt arrives after 40 seconds, and there is no looking back for two hours. Visually, Miller delivers a helluva ride. It’s Cirque de Soleil meets Megadeth. It’s an Ocker-rama-dama-ding-dong and that’s not all.
Perhaps unexpectedly, Mad Max: Fury Road is powered not by Max, nor Peter Stringfellow’s various grotesques, but by women and the glorious power of the feminine. Charlize Theron, as the rogue (and wonderfully named) Imperator Furiosa is pretty much the film’s main protagonist. Max gets the title role and the first-person hallucinations but Furiosa drives the story. And she is an awesome, fighting, bleeding, taciturn (like Clint Eastwood, like Tom Hardy) son of a gun.
But props to Tom Hardy, who is well-suited to a character who has about as much to say as Arnie in The Terminator. He continues to be a beguiling screen presence and his gorilla-meets-sensitive-boy shtick is almost perfect for this, where he’s thrown into the bosom of Furiosas’ vengeful angels.
This makes The Avengers: Age of Ultron look like Sesame Street. Put your pedal to the metal and go see.