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Review: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ carries a punch

Illustration+by+Elijah+Henry.
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Review: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ carries a punch

Illustration by Elijah Henry.

Illustration by Elijah Henry.

Illustration by Elijah Henry.

Illustration by Elijah Henry.

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Ever have one of those “lovely days” where you go out and get a nice meal, take a slow scenic drive — and get ferociously shaken about by a cinematic flurry of special effects, a bombardment of action-packed moments and a flame-throwing guitarist? If not, you haven’t seen “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Confused yet? Allow me to explain.

The post-apocalyptic story of “Mad Max: Fury Road” follows a police officer, Max (played by Tom Hardy), who finds the warrior Imperator Furosia (played by Charlize Theron) trying to escape from the tyrant Immortan Joe (played by the Hugh Keays-Byrne) along with five of the tyrant’s slaves and a henchmen named Nux.

Together they team up to find their piece of peaceful land while engaging in a glorified road rage battle. “Mad Max: Fury Road” is actually a reboot of sorts to the popular 80’s film franchise of the same name, though director George Miller refers to it as more of a revisit. Miller, in fact, has had his finger in a number of interesting pies, having directed not just the three Mad Max films, but films like “Happy Feet” and “Babe.” Yes, the dancing penguin movie and the one about the talking pig. And yes, he directed the sequels to these movies as well.

Now, to the uninitiated, this is no big deal. “Sure, he directed a couple of kid’s movies, a lot of famous directors have done the same.” But when one takes even a brief look at the eyeball-seizing madness that is Miller’s “Fury Road,” you can’t help wonder: “What happened to this poor man?”

Well, this is what happened. “Mad Max: Fury Road” was 14 years in the making. That’s quite a span of time, in which little things like the war on terrorism, the expansion of social media and Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant happened (he was slated to continue his role as Max). You know. Little things.

Anyway, the guy had to pay the bills, essentially. Miller went on to direct films that didn’t carry as much of a punch as his dream project: “Mad Max.”

But eventually the project was green lit, big names like Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron were cast, and Miller’s dream finally came true.

And wow. Just…wow.

99.99 percent of everything you see in “Mad Max” is done without CGI. That’s right, a good chunk of the effects you see are actual stunt men and actors doing crazy things on top of cars. One crazy scene of the film was when the antagonist’s henchmen are standing on long poles, swinging from the top of their spike-covered cars, to get to Max and his gang. These things are moving rapidly and dangerously, obviously putting the lives of the stunt men at risk, yet at the same time grabbing your attention, because Miller’s vision was crazy and inspiring enough to put them there in the first place. Plus, it’s crazy entertaining.

Another scene puts Tom Hardy’s handsome head inches away from the ground, dangling from a vehicle moving at at least 70 mph. Yes, that’s really him, earning every penny he made as a truly Mad Max.

And of course, there is the flame-throwing guitarist, “The Doof Warrior,” assigned by Immortan Joe to inspire his henchmen into battle with his dissonant guitar playing and crazy flame-throwing guitar. All on top of a giant car adorned with massive speakers. Also, he seems to be wearing the face of his deceased mother. I’m not making this stuff up, I swear.

While the film is named after Max himself, Hardy’s character doesn’t say much in the film. In fact, much of Max’s personality is determined by his actions, and not by what he says. Furosia’s clever dialogue leads much of the plot of the film, which brings me to why I think I liked the film so much. Some might think that people want to watch this film because it’s pure terror and madness. I think it’s for a different reason.

It’s the fact that the film is purely different. A different kind of film for an audience whose eyes have glazed over from the same type of film being released over and over again. A different kind of action hero, like Furosia or even Max. And even the most cynical kind of critic can recognize that.

It’s messy. It’s very R-rated. Miller puts his floor on the cinematic gas and doesn’t let up. And as a result, it’s a ride you’re not likely to forget for a while.

In the middle of the film, Nux can’t help but shout “what a lovely day” among the madness that is post-apocalyptic Australia. And what a “lovely day” it is for fun and sometimes crazy cinema.

 

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