Hang on for the ride with ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

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OMG, what the heck did we just see? This imaginative reboot of the Mel Gibson post-apocalyptic action-thriller goes way beyond Thunderdome. After 30 years since the last “Mad Max” sequel, producer-director-writer George Miller returns with a vengeance to create a hedonistic extravaganza that leaves his prior works in the dust.

“Mad Max: Fury Road” is crude, rude and relentlessly attacks your senses. The organized chaos is totally incoherent, but in some ways makes perfect sense. It’s absurd, but easy to follow, and its repulsive characters are somehow compelling. The best way to enjoy or endure it is to tighten your seat belt and hang on for the ride.

For those who remember infamous car designer George Barris’ gorgeous Batmobile, Monkee-mobile, or Munster’s car, these are not those. Miller salvaged and modified more than 300 vehicles from the junkyard for a continuous stream of brutal pursuits. The star vehicle is a Czechoslovakian 18-wheeler crossed with a Chevy Fleetmaster, topped with the shell of a VW bug and equipped with tires spiked on their sides.

Another is a double-decker ’59 Caddy with monster truck tires. Other vehicles feature flamethrowers, tank-tracks, and even a cow-catcher mounted on the front end. With such violent exchanges, Miller has created the evil twin of “Fast & Furious.” Even “F&F” fans might consider this demolition derby a serious case of road rage.

Filmed primarily in the stark deserts of Namibia (Africa), Mad Max (Tom Hardy) survives in a world where civilization is utterly broken, “I am a road warrior.” “My world is fire, and blood.” “I exist in this wasteland, hunted by scavengers.” “As the world fell, it was hard to know who was more crazy; me, or everyone else.” Actually, Max really doesn’t seem that mad or even very angry. He is easily the most sane character in the picture.

On the run, Max meets Furiosa, played with another full-tilt performance by Charlize Theron. She is driving a small group of women to freedom from the vicious tyrant, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Joe has an entire fleet hot on their heels. If Furiosa can team with Max, they have a chance for safety in her homeland across the desert.

With limited access to food, water and “guzzoline,” Max and Furiosa are seemingly running from the living and dead. The army of Immortan Joe consists of an albino blue man crew leading zombies amped up on speed. These crazed warriors drive monstrous cars, trucks, dune buggies and motorcycles with more rust and Bondo than paint.

The convoy carries Cirque du Soleil-type stuntmen swinging from 20-foot poles while the hood of the lead vehicle is adorned with a heavy metal guitarist. To gain additional speed, they ride on the hood and spit fuel into the carbuerator. Eighty percent of the innovative gags are performed old school with low-tech stuntmen and minimal special effects.

This Australian production features yet another non-Aussie born Max (Gibson born in New York and Hardy in England). The characters feature curious names, such as Nux, Silt, Rictus Erectus, Toast the Knowing, The Doof Warrior and The Organic Mechanic. Included amongst the CGI cast of thousands are Riley Keough (granddaughter of Elvis Presley) and Zoe Kravitz (daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet).

“Mad Max: Fury Road” is two hours and rated R for intense sequences of violence and disturbing images. Theron’s performance is so remarkable, it could have been titled “Furious Furiosa.” As they experience a worse drought than California, another appropriate title could have been “Eat My Dust.”

This big budget reboot is not a remake of the original, taking place years afterwards. The film is a continuously over-the-top chase with little dialog and even less time to catch your breath. The offensive characters are critically deranged for non-stop mayhem. Love or hate Mad Max, it is thoroughly maddening and definitely maxed out.

Ron’s Rating: A   Leigh’s Rating: F

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Ron & Leigh Martel