“Mad Max: Fury Road” is the fourth film in writer-director George Miller’s Mad Max franchise, and the first since 1985. Tom Hardy takes over the titular role from Mel Gibson, and this time around must aid a rogue commander (Charlize Theron) as they are chased by a cult leader and his army across the future desert wasteland.
“Fury Road” suffers from the same problem that plagues much of Hollywood today, and that is that filmmakers and audiences alike put style over substance. From a technical standpoint, this latest Mad Max film is constructed brilliantly, with expert stunts and well-staged action sequences. However from a narrative perspective, it leaves much to be desired, and unfortunately the film turns out to be much more exhausting than it is entertaining.
I’m not saying action films need in-depth storytelling and a hefty plot, but all we get in “Fury Road” is that Max must lead a group of women away from a kingdom to a safe area known only as the “Green Place”. The film then acts in a series of repeating motions: they get into a fight, they outrun the bad guys, their truck breaks down, and they must fix the truck. Rinse, repeat. Like I said, the action sequences themselves are often breathtaking at first, but they drag on for so long and eventually just become nothing more than expendable bad guys getting thrown around, so you stop caring.
There is just no real weight or suspense in the film. In the first 10 minutes we are thrown out of the gate and just have characters shoved in our faces, without time to really learn about them or what makes them tick. We then are supposed to root for same characters simply because the movie tells us to. There are several points where two of the girls traveling with Max ask what will happen to them if the cult leader catches them, and I kept wondering the same thing. They never build up the stakes so there is no real reason to feel worried for anyone.
Individually, the two leads, Theron and Hardy, work. Theron digs down deep and conveys a woman who has been torn apart by war and tragedy while Hardy keeps his mouth shut most of the film and certainly could pass as a younger Mel Gibson. Together, however, their chemistry is lacking. Yes, the whole point of the film is that Max is a loner so he doesn’t want to communicate and bond with others, but most of the time it really just looks like two A-list actors simply spewing lines of dialogue at each other.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” is fun in small doses, and at times clever, but in my humble opinion (and isn’t that all a movie review is?), I’ve had more fun watching a Michael Bay film. I just spent way too much of the film either scratching my head at the bizarre imagery or trying to figure out certain character’s motivations.
If you loved the original Mad Max films then this is probably a grand trip down memory lane, and I’m sure that making this film was a labor of love for George Miller. But for me, sitting through it was just plain labor.
Critics Rating: 4/10