When it comes to action films, the world is surely in no short supply. It seems like every summer there are at least a dozen explosion riddled blockbuster potential popcorn flicks with big stars and even bigger muscles, and with The Expendables franchise and the growing direct-to-video market, the action genre has seen a growing interest in old school thrills and old school franchises. One such franchise is Mad Max, an Australian carsploitation series that is more interested in showing than saying, loaded with brilliant action set pieces, memorable characters, and some of the best vehicle chases in cinematic history. This summer we saw the release of the series’s fourth entry Mad Max: Fury Road, which hits theaters again next week for a one-week IMAX special and just came out on DVD. And yes, it is as good as everyone says it is.
“Mad” Max Rockatansky (played this go around by Tom Hardy) is a loner scavenger in the post-apocalyptic outback, and a shell of his former self after his family was murdered by a ruthless road gang. He is abducted and used as a “blood bag” by War Boys, the ruthless and psychopathic followers of the tyrannical Immortan Joe (played by Hugh Keays-Byrne) who holds a sadistic rule over a faction of civilization. When a rebel by the name of Imperator Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron) abducts a group of Joe’s brides to free them, Max finds himself caught in the middle of a devilish ride across the brutal desert once more.
While that synopsis seems lengthy, the film is more style over substance, but in the best possible way. Director/writer George Miller breathes new life into his 35 year old franchise, giving Fury Road the hard biting edge it needed to stand out in today’s film world. The camera work is gorgeous, with wide panning shots of the carnage framed in a grotesque beauty by the hot and foreboding landscape. Max is presented as truly mad this go round, with trippy hallucinations and subtle uses of enhanced speed to portray his insanity. Miller once again brings together a rainbow cast of horrifically demented and totally memorable characters, most of them even madder than Max.
Hardy steps into the role of Max perfectly, capturing Gibson’s same level of gruffness and ruthlessness. Some casual viewers criticize the fact that Max speaks very little in the film, but that’s because he doesn’t have anything to say, and when he does speak it’s usually very important. Theron is excellent and brutal as Furiosa, being the perfect female counterpart to Max. But the real show stealer is Nicholas Hoult as Nux, a war boy who eventually forms an alliance with Max and Furiosa. He’s wired 100% of the time, bringing a frantic energy to the role, and delivering one of the most ironically brilliant lines to cinema ever.
Where Fury Road truly delivers, though, is the action. My God. This is an awesome movie in the true definition of the word: awe-inspiring. We’re blessed with gnarly and beastly looking machinery tearing across the desert, automatic weapons firing back and forth, and terrifying explosions glowing the most ominous orange and black. Miller was very careful about using green screen and CGI, using it only to make big things bigger, and I applaud him for it. So many action movies rely too heavily on the stuff, but Fury Road is old school in the best possible way. Like I mentioned earlier, this film is a truly great example of style over substance done correctly. The story is very straight forward and the dialogue is sparse, but that’s the beauty of it. The film lets the viewer go on a journey, have an experience, and the visuals presented are fantastic. Lace it all with a truly driving and invigorating soundtrack by Tom Holkenborg (a.k.a. Junkie XL), and you have a truly great action film.
While it’s hard to debate whether or not Fury Road is one of the best action films ever made, I’d certainly say it’s the best of 2015 and even a contender for best film. Hell, I even think it’s undoubtedly the best Mad Max entry. Anyone looking to go into cinematography or editing can learn a lot from the style and presentation of Fury Road. But for action buffs, Mad Max fans, or summer moviegoers, you’re going to love Fury Road for its aural and visual feat in sheer, raw action entertainment. And when it comes out again next week, it’s going to be a “lovely day.”
(Title image via under CC BY 2.0).