THIRTY-SIX years after the first Mad Max film graced the screens, the franchise is back with a modernized look and Tom Hardy taking on the role from Mel Gibson.
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It’s action-packed pretty much from start-to-finish, but that does not make it a good film.
Hardy plays the eponymous lone-traveller where life is all but grim, unless you are a member of the villainous War Boys. Captured early on, Max is portrayed as a grunting and growling tortured soul marred by recurring visions of a past that does not spell a good sign.
A subsequent and shaky vehicle chase (which Hardy spends most of tied up and held to the car’s hood with a muzzle attached to his face) results in Max escaping from his captors and falling into the clutches of Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron).
Things start off awkwardly with her assuming him to be a villain and a brawl occurring where she gives him a run for his money before he eventually restrains her and takes her War Rig vehicle. Realizing it won’t work without her, he’s forced to travel with her and The Wives, several angel-like young women being escorted to the Green Place, a supposed utopia away from the dystopia at the centre of the journey.
The race to get there across the boiling, sand-ridden landscape begins whilst trying to avoid the villains of the pack all determined to ensure no happy ending is intact.
Action films like this are supposed to be energetic, engaging and enjoyable to watch from start-to-finish, but the big problem is that this only really starts to pick up somewhere in the third act.
Though the climactic action sequence demonstrates as modest entertainment given how it’s got to that, those seen in the first two thirds feel overlong, repetitive and the shaky direction gets in the way too often.
Instead of being totally enthralled at the constant viewing of vehicles going through sandstorms and explosions galore, one sits there and wonders why a John Woo-style usage of hypnosis is missing.
Even when Max returns bloodied from an unseen fight he has won, the omission of the said fight denies us to see a potentially entertaining fight sequence, something expected to be seen in this genre.
Furthermore, even when the film is not devouring the scenery with explosions and mass crashes, it is fairly tedious to view what is going on in terms of general storytelling.
Mountains are made into waterfalls with crowds being given a reduced set of time to get so much as half a bowl filled if they are lucky. Max’s captivity is down to his captors needing him for his blood. It is a dystopian society being expressed but what is needed to keep the interest alive is a memorable villain, instead of a batch of third-rate, mutant-like characters who offer no entertainment besides being blown up or bludgeoned by our heroes.
Hardy is probably inappropriate for a role like James Bond, but Mad Max comes across as a wholly suitable role for him. Whether its playing Charles Bronson, Bane or the disillusioned ex-Marine turned mixed martial artist in Warrior, Hardy is impressive at acting out physically demanding roles without the character coming across as one-dimensional or cliched.
Playing Max is further support for the belief that Hardy also convinces from the outset when given this type of role.
Theron is also good support, displaying a level of emotional charge to a character that speaks more with actions than words. Channelling an Ellen Ripley/GI Jane look with her buzzsaw haircut, Theron’s battle-hungry persona of a down-but-not-out feminine fighter makes Emily Blunt from last year’s Edge of Tomorrow resemble Holly Hunter mute and playing a piano.
An underwhelming attempt to modernise the Mad Max franchise, this is not as big an adventure as its intentions are made to be, even if Hardy and Theron act their all.