By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — To answer everyone’s first question: no, there’s no Mel Gibson cameo in this decades-later sequel, Mad Max: Fury Road.
And it doesn’t need it. There’s already a lot of fury on that road.
“It was hard to know who was more crazy,” the new Max intones in his opening voiceover narration. “Me, or everyone else.”
The Australian post-apocalyptic action thriller Mad Max surfaced in 1979, turned Mel Gibson into an international star, and spawned two sequels: 1981’s The Road Warrior and then 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
All took place in a dystopian future during which a major energy crisis has made fuel and water scarce and law and order a pipe dream.
In the crafted-to-astonish and astonishingly crafted Mad Max: Fury Road (which is actually set between Mad Max and The Road Warrior), Tom Hardy inherits the Gibson role, a loner named Max Rockatansky, who meets Imperator Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron, a woman intent on crossing the desert and returning to the homeland of her childhood.
Easier said than done.
She’s a renegade on the run from Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) because she stole his prize “possession”: a harem of five beautiful women he considers “breeders” whom he wants to give birth to his heir.
The women need Max’s help to escape their pursuers and cross the stark desert landscape of the Outback.
Producer, director, and co-writer (with Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris) George Miller also directed the first three Maxathons, while mixing in other projects in between, including The Witches of Eastwick, Babe: Pig in the City, Lorenzo’s Oil, and two Happy Feet toons.
The formula for this high-octane, chaotic tribute to road rage is maximum noise, action, and bloodless violence with minimal dialogue, plot, or Hallmark sentimentality.
But there’s a strong feminist subtext that emerges gradually and gratifyingly.
Miller goes easy on the CGI pyrotechnics and instead celebrates old-fashioned stuntwork throughout his numerous extended action and chase sequences, which appear to be taking place in what seems at times the dustiest, dirtiest movie ever made.
As for Hardy and Theron, neither is called upon for much challenging thesping. They realize that, like all the performers in this generic a vehicle, they’re being used as elaborate props.
But they still make formidable contributions to Miller’s very particular and impressive vision.
And both stars have done the extreme-makeup drill before: Hardy as the extravagantly masked villain, Bane, in The Dark Knight Rises and the deglamorized Theron in her Oscar-winning role as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster.
So we’ll outrun 3 stars out of 4. Mad Max: Fury Road is a relentless and exhausting adrenaline rush, which you’ll find either exhilarating or maddening, depending on whether or not action is your road to satisfaction.