Director George Miller makes a triumphant return to the post-apocalyptic desert wasteland of Mad Max in the fourth installment of that pulse-pounding saga. Mad Max: Fury Road now stars Tom Hardy as the sullen, scarred highway loner “Mad” Max Rockatansky and he is the same embittered road warrior as in the previous Miller films.
At the start, Max is captured by a bizarre cult called the War Boys led by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), a hulking tyrant with long, flowing white hair and a chilling breathing mask adorned with horse teeth and vacuum pipes. During his captivity Max is swept up in an escape by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who flees the cult’s territory with a souped-up War Rig along with Immortan Joe’s prized Wives: nubile young women he enslaved solely for breeding. From there it’s a frenzied pursuit caper with Furiosa in her rig frantically outrunning her former leader’s outlandish armies and their tripped-out vehicles.
As with the other Mad Max films, there isn’t a tremendous amount of plot. Basically the heroes have to get from point A to point B and avoid the bad guys. Max is still haunted by his past and uncaring about Furiosa’s dilemma at first, before allowing his heroic side to emerge. But Mad Max: Fury Road is still an outlandish, adrenaline-fueled action film! What makes this exciting film so fantastic is its simple nature and ability to deliver the pulsing goods. Astounding practical effects and stunts, plus a non-stop pace add to this exhilarating viewing experience. Then there are the many off-the-wall images like a hellish guitar player that is used to spur on the War Boys and terrify the enemy with a flame-shooting electric guitar. Other moments include the sickening sight of women used as cows to pump milk or men used as mobile blood banks. Those along with long-sweeping vistas of imposing desert lands enforce the notion that hell has come to this future Earth.
Interestingly, the film isn’t afraid to slow things down once in a while because these moments allow the audience to know and care about the characters. One of the more interesting people in the film is Nux (Nicholas Hoult), a War Boy that was obsessed with capturing Furiosa and the Wives, but winds up fighting for them instead. More importantly, Hardy is a worthy successor to Mel Gibson, the original portrayer of Max. It’s a relief to see that the character is in good, stoic hands with Hardy. That is because Max is able to exhibit his savage and noble heart in the heart-pumping climax where he and Furiosa have their final confrontation with Joe and his army.
Given all of its fast-moving and engaging merits, Mad Max: Fury Road is as terrific as The Road Warrior and in some ways better. That’s because it harkens back to the good old-fashioned action/car chase films from the ’70s and ’80s, while delivering something more tangible.