Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Mad Max: Fury Road

Great action drives this thrill-a-minute reboot.

It’s been 30 years since he’s been on the big screen, and even though he’s played by a different actor, Max Rockatansky is still as mad as can be. I guess that if I had to survive in a post-apocalyptic world and went into a desert wasteland where water is scarce and dispensed at the will of a tyrant I’d be pretty ticked off too.

Tom Hardy plays the title character in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” taking over the role that Mel Gibson made famous in the 1980s. This time Max finds himself the captive of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne—Toecutter in the original “Mad Max” from 1979). Joe runs an enclave in the desert where hundreds of thirsty people claw and fight for every drop of water they can get—that is, once Joe feels magnanimous enough to let them have water.

Joe also keeps select women safely tucked away. Some are there to provide milk to feed his War Boys, who are his soldiers. Other younger, more supple ones are his brides, and they’re there for more carnal pleasures. This does not sit well with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who uses an excursion into the desert as a way to smuggle five brides away from Joe and into the safety of an area far away, where she came from as a child.

Joe has the expected reaction and sends his War Boys after her and her big rig truck. Max goes along with one of the War Boys named Nux (Nicholas Hoult). Nux is terribly sick from radiation poisoning and needs a blood transfusion. Turns out Max is type O, the universal donor. This makes him Nux’s blood bag, and he’s attached to the front of Nux’s vehicle as such.

Starting with “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior” in 1981, George Miller has incorporated grand scale stunts and chases into his “Mad Max” movies. These chases served as the final act in both “The Road Warrior” and 1985’s “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.” With “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Miller flips the script. Instead of having an hour and ten minutes worth of plot and dialogue with a 20-minute chase at the end, we now have about 30 minutes of plot and dialogue with the remaining 90 minutes being the chase through the desert. This is a bold and daring move. I cannot count the number of movies where the action scenes get repetitive and mind numbing. It’s ironic how boring action can be if done in a poor or mediocre way.

Miller must have learned a trick or two from the chase scenes in the previous two installments, because the action in “Mad Max: Fury Road” is never boring—and there is plenty of it. It helps that there is a lot of imagination on screen, and not in terms of visual effects, but rather in ideas. For example, the War Boys regard Joe as god-like. They worship him and believe what he says. They are willing to spray their mouths with chrome paint, scream “Witness me!” to their fellow sycophants, and proudly die doing Joe’s bidding.

The vehicles involved in the chase are amazing. Furiosa’s rig is a towering fortress on wheels. Various other cars and trucks are employed in the chase, most of which look like vintage hot rods crossed with medieval torture devices. One truck in particular that I love has huge speakers with a guitarist strapped in front of them, and strapped to the back are two columns of drummers. They blare out the song that lets everyone know that Immortan Joe is on the war path.

“Mad Max: Fury Road” is just as much Furiosa’s movie as it is Max’s. True to his character from previous movies, he gets caught up in situations with people and seeks to do the right thing. It’s really her quest that they are embarking on, but once Max gets on board, he makes it his own.

Furiosa and Max aside, the best written character is Nux. Nicholas Hoult imbues the character with a soul and a conscience that is more than what is written on the page. It’s quite surprising, and given that Nux is the character with the biggest arc, he also has the most emotional pull. It’s exciting and entertaining to watch Max and Furiosa battle with their attackers as they make their way across the desert. With Nux, his fate is less certain, and he becomes the one to really, actually root for.

A final note on something that cannot go unappreciated: the names, which are very imaginative in their own right. In addition to great names like the aforementioned Immortan Joe and Imperator Furiosa, we also have Joe’s son Rictus Erectus (Nathan Jones), a bride named Toast the Knowing (Zoe Kravitz), and an ally of Joe’s named Bullet Farmer (Richard Carter). That’s just a sampling, but it speaks to the awesome creativity that went into “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Buy it.

Mad Max: Fury Road (Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet)

More New Releases: “Boulevard,” starring Robin Williams, about a man in a marriage of convenience who is forced to confront his secret life; “Good Kill,” starring Ethan Hawke as a military drone pilot who questions what he’s doing; and “7 Minutes,” about a bank robbery that starts off simply and winds up complicated.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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