Hardy turns it up to the Max
Thirty-six years have passed since Mel Gibson made only his second big-screen appearance as a vengeful Australian policeman in Mad Max.
Two sequels – packing in everything from mohawks and “feral kids” to Tina Turner – followed and now, three decades on from the anti-hero’s trip Beyond Thunderdome, new lead Tom Hardy takes over in the driving seat.
But it’s not all change as first trilogy director George Miller returns behind the camera with the new-look Max once again attempting to negotiate his way across barren desert lands in a post-apocalyptic world.
You’ll do well to see a more bonkers flick this year – but what a thrill ride Miller serves up from first minute to last.
Playing out like one long chase scene, it’s wall-to-wall action with majestic scope and wonderfully wacky images that will stay burned into your brain for a good while afterwards.
Set in the year 2060, Miller and his effects team create a breathtaking scorched land brought to life using a combination of muted whites and greys and volcanic oranges.
Aussie Miller penned the script with inexperienced writers Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris and while this franchise reboot has enough of a reason for Max and Co to get from point A to B – some craziness involving an angelic-like group of women called the Five Wives – the focus is on stunts ahead of story.
Luckily, Hardy is up for the physical challenge as Max is put through the ringer (“out here everything hurts”) and from eating lizards to leaping to and from vehicles, Max lives up to his opening line of narration – “my world is fire and blood”.
And Miller has an eye for inventive set pieces – an extreme sandstorm, beautifully shot moonlight and mud sequence – and turning what could be run of the mill hand-to-hand combat into something more; witness a threeway fight involving both sexes with two of the participants chained together.
The director also gives the female members of his cast equal storyline billing and screen time, led by Charlize Theron’s crew-cut and metallic arm-sporting bad-a** warrior Furiosa.
A barely recognisable Nicholas Hoult (Nux) is a delight as an allegiance-switching henchman and veteran Indian-Australian Hugh Keays-Byrne – who played “Toecutter” in the first Mad Max – makes for a ghastlylooking, menacing tyrannical fascist leader, King Immortan Joe.
Miller barely gives the audience a chance to pause for breath and a wonderful climax full of acts of heroism and satisfying character resolutions sees Max’s vehicular “rig” become like a castle under siege.
Motoring, manic and monstrous – in a good way – Fury Road is an exhilarating resurrection of a franchise many thought was dead.
It’s an unrelenting, rip-roaring first part of Miller’s new trilogy journey that deserves to be seen on as big a screen as possible.
Frantic fury Hardy fights for his life in a post-apocalyptic land