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Courtesy of Warner Bros.

 

For the last 25 years, director George Miller, fought long and hard to get a fourth installment made in his lucrative “Mad Max” series. With the absence of his formerly, famous lead star Mel Gibson, a bold transition had to be enacted for a new actor to play the “Mad” Max Rockatansky character as effectively as Gibson.

Stepping up to the plate in the role is Tom Hardy, who is paired alongside a feisty, bald-headed Charlize Theron, who when paired together are a nearly unstoppable force of badassery. Their characters along with a mind-blowing amount of technical achievements make “Fury Road” not just one of the best sequels in recent memory, but also one of, if not the greatest action movie of all-time.

 

Set in the distant future where the Australian Outback is a desert wasteland and civilization is no more, Max continues his trek as a lone survivor across the vast open land. His progress is interrupted when he’s taken prisoner by the War Boys army, who work under the wing of their tyrannical leader Immortan Joe.

His time as a prisoner is short-lived, when Imperator Furiosa (Theron) defects the tribe in a rig containing Joe’s Five Wives, which produces a prolonged chase across the open desert between the rig and Joe’s army, in addition to armies from bordering communities. Max escapes confinement, boards the rig and assumes leadership alongside Furiosa to drive the Five Wives to safety.

The madcap, chaotic setting of the “Mad Max” films drives (pun intended) the distinctiveness of its insane characters and grand action sequences, both of which are in full-throttle mode (I’m done now) in “Fury Road.” The punk-inspired costumes are vibrantly detailed, especially for the fact that the wardrobes for the three armies in pursuit are definitively presented to point out who’s who.

The action on the other hand is expectedly the film’s biggest standout aspect. Miller storyboarded the film before writing the script and his execution of them on screen is flawless. Staging what is pretty much a two-hour chase, his signatures as a director are always present where the camera is positioned in the best spots and the editing is precise in relation to the fast pace the action moves along at. Explosions go off left and right, many cars crash and flip upside down and all of it is searing to the retinas.

Although Hardy and Theron have top-billing, the cars themselves are highly deserving for similar placement. The cars, trucks and even motorcycles are brilliantly constructed. Especially a truck that has drummers on the back end, and even a guitarist that’s playing nonstop during the chase, and also has the ability to shoot flames out of the guitar. If that isn’t enough to sell you on Miller’s zany vision, I don’t know what else would.

Hardy is no Mel Gibson in his portrayal of “Mad” Max, but still commendable in retaining the character’s trademark reserved ass-kicking that contrasts the minimal dialogue spouts off.

Theron on the other hand is phenomenal as Furiosa where she is physically transformative both in muscular and hairstyle forms. Furiosa’s strong-willingness makes her one of the best action movie heroines in recent memory. Even amidst a sea of male characters in pursuit of her, she and the Five Wives riding shotgun are brute in their courage to fight back against the hoard of armies wanting to capture them.

In addition to his handling of the masterful action, George Miller and his writing collaborators are smart to allow the visuals to speak for themselves more than the occasional dialogue spoken. The presentation of the setting alone is enough to justify this approach, and the body language by the actors complements it sufficiently well.

Flaws in this film really only lie in the narrative being nothing new and the characters not having too much development, but Miller makes up for it by lending his self-awareness for making a movie that’s meant to entertain on a grand scale, and it achieves that goal sufficiently.

Years ago when it was announced, I never expected “Mad Max: Fury Road” to be the hugely entertaining movie it is. It certainly ranks alongside “The Road Warrior” as the best entries in the franchise and it’s an even better treat for its appeal to both male and female audiences.

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