‘Mad Max: Fury Road’
Director: George Miller
Stars: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron
5 (out of 5) Globes
Thirty years separate “Mad Max: Fury Road” and its last installment, the gee-whiz threequel “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.” It shows: All the pent-up expectation explodes in a relentless flurry of grease-stained automotive mayhem, peppered with explosions, collisions, dudes flying about on bending sticks and reams of S&M duds. In April “Furious 7” scored a fair amount of wows for a scene where Vin Diesel and Paul Walker drove a souped-up ride not through two but three skyscrapers. But did it have a fleet of porcupine cars? Some dude strapped to the front of a truck strumming out licks on a combination guitar-flame thrower? A desert storm so towering it makes the Red Sea climax from last year’s “Exodus” look like a wave pool?
There’s so much business going on there’s barely room for a plot. In this case that’s fine; any more story or character development than the little it has might get in the way of its beautiful, transcendent destruction. Brooding post-apocalyptic loner Max Rockatansky returns, transformed from a taciturn Mel Gibson into an even more withdrawn Tom Hardy. The bulk of this fourth entry is action — a single cross-continent chase between the vehicular armies of a white-haired fascist, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), and Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, who has absconded with his gaggle of young brides. She hopes to whisper them away to one of those dystopian Edenic promised lands that may or may not exist, away from the things of man — which is to say oppressive, pudgy, old men who will chase them to the ends of the earth (or Australia) to maintain their oppressive patriarchy.
As ever, Max is part reluctant semi-hero, part bystander in a movie bearing his name. He even spends the first third chained up with a muzzle, rendering Hardy’s aggressive mumble-mouth even less coherent than his Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises.” It takes even longer for him to chill to Furiosa and company, even after realizing that if caught they’d return to subjugation, or worse. Hardy is the perfect Mad Max, in a way even better than Gibson: he’s a weird actor who never likes being too liked. He happily allows the movie to be stolen by Theron, whose buzz cut opens up her face, allowing her to project a constant aura of vulnerability and concentrated baddassery. (Oh, and she also has a robotic arm.) She has sad eyes but also a mighty scowl. Late in Furiosa teases at a backstory, something that drives her to seek redemption, but you don’t need to know it; she’s iconic as is. And though modern moviegoers still demand she occasionally be saved by a man, at least she’s not forced to fall in love with him.