If you thought Baz Luhrmann was one of Australia’s most extravagant exports, then think again. And if you thought Wolf Creek was one of Australia’s most disturbing outback thrillers, then think again, because Mad Max: Fury Road has landed.
30 years on from the last film in the franchise, legendary filmmaker George Miller charges head-first into this re-imagining. It’s a new era, a new story, a new cast and a new Max, but Fury Road unfolds as the same deliciously dirty, dystopian nightmare that it always was.
Brit bulldozer Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises, Locke) perfectly fills the mumbly, grumbly leather boots of his predecessor Mel Gibson, and dare I say, breathes better life into the role of Max Rockatansky. It’s ironic that Hardy – most famous for playing Bane in the last Batman film – now find himself up against a grilled and grizzly villain who looks just like him.
Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne; aka Toecutter from the 1979 film) is the tyrannical leader of the post-apocalyptic wasteland. A Citadel lord and War Boy hero, Immortan Joe controls the water distribution in the town. Also in his greedy possession are sex slaves known as ‘The Five Wives’, young, pure and beautiful women he impregnates in the hope of creating a new army of vagabonds.
When Immortan Joe sends his finest road warriors out to collect more gasoline, he doesn’t anticipated that one of his best – Imperator Furiosa – will veer off course. What follows, is a 120-minute rip-roaring chase across the desert, where serious stunt work and sprinklings of SFX reach awe-inspiring levels.
Just like her multi-award winning turn as real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos in 2003’s Monster, chameleon actress Charlize Theron is unrecognisable. Bald, buffed, warrior painted and one-armed as desert drifter Furiosa, the South-African-born beauty cuts a striking figure.
Having escaped Immortan Joe’s salacious vault with the Five Wives in tow, the feisty female truckie drives with an entire anti-army in hot pursuit. The Five Wives themselves (Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee & Courtney Eaton) aren’t particularly inspiring, but the models make surprisingly convincing work of the weapons at their disposal – and for once I don’t mean their looks or sexuality, I mean actual weapons.
Nicholas Hoult puts in an excitingly erratic performance that melts the face off his 13-yr-old self in About A Boy. Nux – who has the scratchy voice of Vyvyan from The Young Ones – is an eager to please, sickly War Boy who doesn’t take long to come around to the good side. The rebel gang meet up with Furoisa’s clan the Vuvalini – a bevy of gun-toting grandmas with a naked Megan Gale thrown in for good measure – and begin their retaliation.
Even the minor characters in Fury Road are terrifying. A bald brigade of pale, black-eyed men bounce menacingly atop custom-made cars and bikes, wielding arrows and guns. Man mountain Rictus Erectus (former pro-wrestler Nathan Jones) leads his father Joe’s minions into battle, whilst a morbidly obese (serious cankles) and nipple-pierced John Howard (from All Saints not Parliament), Richard Carter and Angus Sampson ride shotgun in their prospective beasts. There’s also a nod to Thunderdome with disabled Aussie actor Quentin Kenihan a la Master Blaster.
This leads to another exciting point – the cars themselves are characters. Max’s iconic V8 Interceptor has been modified since 1981’s The Road Warrior, and now – claimed by the War Boys – looks a little tired and worn. Joe’s The Gigahorse is two 1959 Cadillacs on top of each other, while The People Eater (Howard) rides a gnarly limousine. Furoisa’s medieval cement truck The Rig, however, is pretty hard to beat.
There are also small, spiky Volkswagens that resemble echidnas, but the most outlandish car is ‘morale machine’ The Doof Wagon. An insane sound system on wheels, it has a V8 engine, a wall of sub-woofers, Taiko drummers and a Doof Warrior (musician iOTA) who swings from a bungee while flames intermittently erupt from the end of his double-necked electric guitar. Nuff said.
Fiery tornados turn across the burnt-orange skies of the vicious Valhalla landscape, as real men on real machines (no CGI here) tear across the sandy arid grounds wreaking havoc, murder and mayhem on Fury Road.
The results are cinematically catastrophic, as bits of broken metal and man litter the Namibia desert like a kaleidoscope of coloured carnage. Some shots are mesmerisingly sped-up or slowed down for dramatic effect, and Dutch film composer Junkie XL’s bombastic soundtrack paired with the natural roars, screeches and revving engines of the cars, makes for an epic aural-assault in a cinema session.
It’s a post-apocalyptic, sci-fi-tinged, Australian action drama extravaganza, and an undisputed cult-classic for a new generation. It’s wonderfully bonkers, beautifully shot and most of all, fun. I’m calling it: Mad Max: Fury Road is possibly one of the best Australian films. Ever.
Mad Max: Fury Road is in cinemas now. Do yourself a favour Australia!