George Miller cranks the madness of his post-Aussiepocalypse franchise’s fourth entry up to maximum overdrive in the first 10 minutes—a blazing descent into a desert hellscape. Max (Tom Hardy) munches down a two-headed lizard, gets into his Pursuit Special and tears off along the sand, only to be captured by the “War Boys.” He briefly escapes, in a hallucination-flecked frenzy, to reveal the gang’s Citadel, a clifftop fortress full of white-painted, shaved-head death-culters following a skull-masked Immortan Joe, whose female “property” pump out breast milk for the brood of successors his young brides beget.
After that delirious, jittery, nightmarish beginning, the movie downshifts into a basic Western premise—a wagon-train of hopeful, civilization-seeking rebels pursued by savage enemies. Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) takes off for her homeland—from which she was abducted as a young girl—with Joe’s Five Wives stowed away on her War Rig. They roll on through a vast duststorm, a canyon ambush and sludge, searching for the “green place” Furiosa remembers as Joe’s hot-wheeled convoy hell-hounds them. There’s Nicholas Hoult’s deluded Nux, silver-spraying his mouth in anticipation of his chrome-smiled entrance to “Valhalla,” with Max strapped to his hood as a living blood bank. Or a chained-down guitarist ripping chords on his fire-throwing axe like it’s a war-trumpet while raging War Boys try to board Furiosa’s truck from atop poles swaying overhead from vehicles speeding through Namibian dunes. Mad Max: Fury Road revs on and on as a spectacle best seen on the big screen in all its crazy-as-a-desert-fox, carefully car-choreographed glory.
The War Boys fetishize steering wheels and oil (grease becomes warpaint), while water’s dished out to the Citadel’s desperate mob below like manna from heaven, but it’s the gender subtext that hits hardest. The skull-masked leader’s a wasteland Henry VIII, reducing female bodies to mere life-vessels, pushing out children—male heirs preferred—at his brutish behest. So, when Imperator and Max strike back with her all-female homeland tribe, there’s a thrilling, though too-brief, sense of grrrls-gonzo-wild. Ultimately, though, this is one leering, gibbering, riotous romp of an action-extravaganza—restoring your faith that big-budget shockbusters, every once in a blue-night desert moon, can give you your money’s worth.
Directed by George Miller