Movie Review: ‘MAD MAX: FURY ROAD’ – A Visceral and Breathless Hell Ride

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Preston Barta // Features Editor


MAD MAX: FURY ROAD | 120 min | Rated R
Director: George Miller
Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton and Josh Helman

Just when you thought the recent wave of rebooted franchises had run out of gas, along comes MAD MAX: FURY ROAD— George Miller’s non-stop concerto of clanking iron, splattering blood and broken bones.

When the theaters were last graced with a MAD MAX film (BEYOND THUNDERDOME starring Mel Gibson in the title role), Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” topped Billboard, Ronald Reagan was president and disco was still dying. Miller’s grand return over three decades later features new tools of absurdity, an even madder Max, and a much grander exploration of the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is Earth.

In FURY ROAD, audiences return once more to a shattered humanity in a stark desert landscape. Amidst the chaos, there are two rebels who just might be able to restore order: Max Rockatansky (a silent-but-deadly Tom Hardy), the mad man of action wrestling with his dark past; and Imperator Furiosa (a scene-stealing Charlize Theron), a woman seeking nothing but a return to her childhood homeland known simply as “the green place.”

Hardy, who is now the master of quiet-acting (sorry, Ryan Gosling), seamlessly fills Gibson’s iconic leather jacket. He looks both physically menacing and eternally exhausted by the burden he carries through the landscape of dirt, an anti-hero who prioritizes his safety at the expense of his morality.

Hugh Keays-Byrne is scary-good as Immortan Joe. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Hugh Keays-Byrne is scary-good as Immortan Joe. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Hardy’s Max nearly falls to a secondary position, however; believe it or not, FURY ROAD engages Theron’s Furiosa more. Even through her buzzed head and mechanical arm, Theron’s performance is beautiful and captivating, portraying a strapping and tough character worthy of our admiration. Her Furiosa is cold yet absolutely determined to further her cause– she is a prime example of a powerful female character and much more than a model shoehorned into the narrative. Kuddos to Miller and his writing team.

As a fan of MAD MAX films, the franchise’s inventiveness and artistry still holds strong, going even further than anyone could have ever imagined with the help of modern gadgets and CGI. Strange weapons and contraptions abound anew: road warriors throw explosive spears with reckless abandon at large, rumbling cars and tanks that spit fire out of their exhaust. It’s otherworldly and quite the fitting spectacle. There is no such thing as “too much” in the desolate landscape Miller has created. While occasionally weird and often over-the-top, the absurdity works wonderfully in service to the renewed wasteland.

FURY ROAD truly doesn’t let up, riding its momentum from start to finish. But don’t fret– Miller has orchestrated much more than mindless explosions and noise. The characters are unique, identifiable and moving, and their situations ring with vibrant authenticity. Fans both new and old will cheer with the madness that is brought forth in this addition, so strap in for one mighty hell ride.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD opens at 7 p.m. tonight in participating theaters and everywhere tomorrow.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.