'Mad Max: Fury Road' is a jawdropping ode to the road (spoiler-free review)
Actors Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron jam the pedal to the metal in this stunningly painted, sandblasted future of fire and blood.
Richard TrenholmFormer Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Having seen the gobsmackingly over-the-top trailers, I went into "Mad Max: Fury Road" worrying that it would be review-proof. And it is, in that my review could consist of me pointing at the screen for 2 hours and going, "AAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGHHHHHTHISISAMAAAAAAZZZIIINNNG!"
"Fury Road" jams the pedal to the metal and keeps its foot down for a breakneck 120 minutes of vehicular carnage, a jawdroppingly beautifully painted demolition derby streaked through with humour as dry as the desert in which it's set and hearts as black as the precious "guzzle-ine" that fuels it. Cracked lips and sandblasted faces leer from the ochre nightmare of a world fallen to rust, flame blossoms from speeding war rigs, twisted metal and bodies crash and tumble -- the mayhem is viscerally, exhilaratingly real, making the glossy CGI heroics of " Avengers: Age of Ultron" look like a Saturday morning cartoon.
Tom Hardy steps into Mel Gibson's battered leathers as taciturn road warrior Max Rockatansky, stumbling into a deadly feud between Charlize Theron's equally close-mouthed Imperator Furiosa and the diseased Immortan Joe, played by Hugh Keays-Byrne (who played a different villain in the original "Mad Max"). Joe rules the wastes as part of a trio of equally sick warlords, indulging their venal desires and lording over the populace with the support of their brainwashed Warboys, a cult of gleeful warriors exalting in the chance to sacrifice themselves in the most lavishly destructive ways possible.
Fans of Hardy's "look, Mum, I'm doing a voice" style of acting will be pleased to hear that even though he says about five words he comes up with another corker of an accent, communicating in a sort of growly mumble halfway between a V8 engine and Milton from "Office Space." Nicholas Hoult is in top form as a Warboy desperate to win his corrupt leader's favour, while Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough and Abbey Lee provide the film's heart as a harem of desert dryads.
But truly this is Theron's film: she's spellbinding as the grizzled warrior fighting tooth-and-nail to survive -- and maybe even find meaning in this mad world.
It's a world in which it's not just "guzzle-ine" that's fought over, but the very fluids of life: water. Blood. Mother's milk. "Fury Road" is a beautifully realised vision of the post-apocalyptic future, filmed in Namibia but looking like another planet. The screen explodes with the fevered imaginings of a civilisation with no past and no future. From the Warboys' twisted cult, to the grotesque denizens each more bizarre than the last, to the crazy vehicles including a Slipknot concert on 18 wheels, "Fury Road" is packed with surreal detail. Even the character names alone are a treat: Rictus Erectus, Toast the Knowing, The Splendid Angharad, Cheedo the Fragile, The Doof Warrior and many more.
"Fury Road" is movie-making madness to the max. Road rage never looked so good.
"Mad Max: Fury Road" crashes into theatres on 14 May in the UK and Australia and 15 May in the US.