THE sheer brain-bursting, suspension-of-disbelief-straining intensity of the new Mad Max film, Fury Road, suggests it might be time to go back and re-name the original trilogy.
By comparison, the first film could well be titled Mildly Miffed Max, the second could perhaps be A Few Mental Issues Max and the third would just be the one we pretend never happened, because this new George Miller reimagining of the legend is properly, utterly Mad.
There are many points during this film where you will hear that particular kind of laughter from men in the audience that’s a kind of grunting chunter, a “nooo way, I can’t believe they just did that, but I’m so glad they did” expulsion of air.
We were promised that, with its 120 stunt vehicles and nine-year production schedule, Fury Road would deliver car chases even bigger than the record-holding Blues Brothers, but that doesn’t actually have car chases, it simply has one long one that wrecks a lot of cars.
After a slightly disturbing, horror-esque opening stanza, featuring giant-breasted fat women being harvested for breast milk, men being turned into “blood bags”, depending on how much octane they have in their system, face staples, weird dwarves and the appearance of the film’s truly grosstacular, horse-teethed Bad Guy, Immortan Joe (played by Hugh Keays-Byrne, who played Toecutter in the original Mad Max), you do somewhat wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into.
The character of Max, played by Tom Hardy, who shows his usual talent for coming up with deep, deranged voices (he was Bane in The Dark Knight Rises), makes the Mel Gibson Max look like a loveable rogue, so pronounced are his psychoses.
From the point that he’s strapped to the front of a particularly vicious-looking vehicle, so that his War Boy owner can continue to harvest his blood via a tube while in the midst of a high-speed battle, the film revs up and takes off. Both the action, and you the viewer, barely pause to take breath again. Although it is easier to get air in when your mouth is hanging wide open in disbelief.
The stunts, the cars and the carnage promised by the trailers and the publicity are all delivered in huge, explosive dollops, and the action is simply fantastic. There’s a scale, a madness and a gory reality to the stunts that is truly unprecedented.
Bodies fly in all directions, faces are ripped off, surgery is carried out with daggers, and at one stage Megan Gale is naked before she also meets a bloody, squishy end.
It might seem over the top, and indeed a lot of it is, but at the same time it’s just such a fantastic thrill ride that you can’t help but love being on it.
In terms of plot and character development, Hardy and Charlize Theron (Imperator Furiosa) do a great job in the literally six minutes of the film where someone isn’t trying to disembowel them.
The good news is that you will love Mad Max: Fury Road if you’re a car person, or just someone who loves a good car chase and the odd explosion, but the great news is that just about anyone with a heartbeat will enjoy it.
It’s madness, Max Madness, at its very best.
Read our behind the scenes feature on the making of Mad Max: Fury Road this month in Wheels magazine, on sale May 21.