Mad Max: Fury Road

When George Miller first gave us Mad Max in 1976, I was too young to appreciate it, however as a kid growing up I was one of the many who managed to see them and love them, that said by the time it came to Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome I felt (even at my then relatively tender age) as if the magic had worn off, while discussing the films recently, I recalled that it was actually a number of years before I watched the entirety of Thunder Dome.

Speed forward a generation and Miller has given us a new “episode” is the life of Max Rockatansky. I say episode as that is exactly how Miller described it when asked, it is not a prequel, sequel or other, but a new episode in the continuing adventures of Max

This time round Max is played by Tom Hardy (Peaky Blinders, 2014) who must be one of the busiest actors out there at the moment., He pretty soon runs into Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, Mad Max, 1979 as “Toe Cutter”) and his band. Immortan controls the only source of fresh water in the district and together with two other local settlements; Gas Town, ruled by The People Eater (John Howard, All Saints 2001) and The Bullet Farm, run by the Bullet Farmer (Richard Carter, the Great Gatsby, 2013) they control the district. Immortan has developed an almost cult based society with those who serve him directly and act as his foot soldiers being given the necessary food to survive, other clanging around outside are left to be thankful for any scraps. As with the previous offerings society is mechanical and post-apocalyptic.

While a prisoner of Immortan, Max is to be used as a “Blood bag” for the one of the War pups – these are the (usually dying from radiation poisoning) young people under Immortan’s rule. Immortan has developed a psuado-religion with his War pups/dogs willing to die for him and go to Valhalla. In Max’s case the War Pup in question in Nux (Nicholas Hult, warm bodies 2013). Life is complicated when Imperator Furiosa , (Charlize Thron, Prometheus, 2012) one of Immortan’s more senior people, escapes with one of his war wagons ( a large fortified petrol trailer -which seems to be broken in to containers carrying water and human milk- and tractor) and, most importantly his 5 wives, all of whom are fit and healthy and capable of producing children, with at least one of them currently pregnant. Alarms are raised, and the war pups/dogs are sent out to capture them, indeed the neighbouring settlements are brought in and together the three leaders and their mechanical armies hunt down Imperatur Furiosa, here war wagon and as they discover the hidden wives. Max is attached to one of the war pups as a blood transfusion supply, however undaunted, the war pup, Nux (Nicholas Holt, Warm Bodies, 2013) volunteers to join the chase.

And now the fun really starts. As the chase begins Immortan Joe brings his warriors together, in a fantastic display of post-apocalyptic engineering right down to the booming sound truck with its own rock guitarist hanging from cables as he riffs to the assembled wildness. What follows is a genuinely edge of seat sequence of set-piece stunts which come off brilliantly.

Eventually Max manages to not only free himself from Nux but also get to the war wagon, its water and fuel and along the way discover the real cargo. Furiosa is taking them to The Green Place an almost mythical land she remembers from growing up. To add to his troubles, Nux is not too pleased to have lost his blood supply and to have done so in such a public manner, seeking to gain Immortan Joe’s approval he volunteers to get on to the war wagon and rescue the situation, Immoratan Joe promises him Valhalla and the brainwashed pup goes to his death. However he does not die and actually contributes greatly to events, though not as Immortan would have liked.

The chase continues and of course many are killed along the way in fantastic displays of destruction and mayhem. Eventually they come to Furiosa’s homeland where they meet a group surviving women, one of whom, the Keeper of the Seeds (Mellissa Jaffa, Komodo, 1999) manages to nicely convey how much life has changed. I don’t know if it was intended but the spirit of the women of the Green Lands was reminiscent of the characters and their strength shown in the 1956 classic A Town Like Alice (Jack Lee).

Things of course don’t exactly go to plan, but as with any good story, things have a way of working out to everybody’s (mostly) pleasure.

This movie might be an “episode” but from the perspective of popularity, it is effectively a reboot bring the franchise to an entirely new generation. I’ve tried not to say too much, the movie is visually spectacular, with a great cast and some witty dialogue, enjoy it.

To those who say the role of max has been diluted and there is too much of a female lead, I would simply say; no, you’re wrong.

The Drop

Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini, Enough Said, 2013), runs a neighbourhood bar, which he used to own until about 10 years previous, when the Chechen mob took it from him. He is aided in running the bar with his cousin Bob ( Tom Hardy, Locke, 2014) who is calm quiet individual, who might be taken for being slow of the mark, but may not be a quiet as he seems. The bar is a mob “drop” bar where once selected for a given night, is the drop point for mob bookies through the city. One particular night, with no special drops, the bar is raided and about $5K stolen. As a result of a head injury to one of the staff, an ambulance is called and so the police. Bob let’s slip that one of the robbers had a broken watch, this turns out to be a vital clue. The detective, Torres (John Ortiz, Fast and Furious, 2006) who is assigned the case turns out to be a regular mass goer in the same church as Bob. Being a detective, he has noticed Bob never takes Communion, he asks Bob about this, but gets no answer, is there something deep and dark in Bob’s past?

As he is dealing with the fall-out from the robbery, he comes across an abandoned and injured puppy in a woman’s rubbish bin, through rescuing the puppy, he gets to know the woman in question, with a delicate fledgling relationship begins. Before it can develop, things take a negative turn. It turns out the puppy was owned by a local thug, Eric Deeds, (Blood Ties, 2013) who also happens to be the ex-boyfriend of the woman in question, Nadia (Noomi Rapace, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, 2009). Deeds has been recently released from prison/psychiatric hospital and is widely believed to have cold-bloodily killed a former gang leader and general all-round nasty thug some years ago, this belief has given Deeds a reputation he is happy to live up to.

It soon becomes clear that there was something more behind the robbery, Bob tries to steer a straight line, surviving by keeping his head down, minding his own business and doing nothing to annoy the Chechens.

At first glance we see parallels to the character Hardy played in Lawless (2012) in both cases we see a man getting on with life, quiet and thoughtful, a thinker.   Hardy is to be acknowledged as playing two similar roles but managing to give completely different characters; Forrest was confident and sure is what he was doing, he did not speak because he did not need to. Bob on the other hand comes across as a man not so sure of himself, even taking on the “Responsibility” of the puppy is a matter of concern for him.

AS the plot develops and pressure starts to mount, we learn there is to be an added complication; the bar is to be the drop bar for the mob on Super-bowl night, the biggest money night of the year. Will it be robbed again? One of the original thieves was found and executed with the money returned. However our friend Deeds is involved somehow. As the situation develops, Bob takes precautions to first and foremost protect himself. The night of the big match arrives, and things get complicated, caught up between Deeds, Nadia who is forced there by the more and more deranged Deeds needs to be protected and against all of this is the underlying threat to his dog, which he is not taking lightly. The night unfolds with nothing going to plan. Secrets are revealed, and justice meted out, but to whom.

Hardy is the star of the show, once again transforming himself to the role, Gandolfini plays to his type (excellently, as was his way).

It is a firm 3 star show, nothing overly wrong with it, a lot right with it, but just missing that little extra to make it stand out. Also the role of Detective Torres role comes across as under played. Yes the detective put “two and two “ together to realise the secret of an old mystery and yes he develops a relationship with Hardy but it seems almost like an add-on, maybe suffering a little in editing. There is a certain something missing for some of the film, but noting serious.

Atmospheric and well set, it will keep you entertained. Written by David Lehane (Mystic River, 2003) we can see how Lehane again is able to use the edginess of the situation to move along the story and give a sense of menace to the background which does not need to be overly stated.


One might ask if this movie is an entertainment production or something meant to resemble an art work. Directed by Steven Knight, it is quite different to his last directorial effort (Redemption 2013) but still retains that sense of movement and edge. Starring Tom Hardy (Lawless 2012) as the eponymous “Locke”.

Set on the road to his destination, we are given a movie of Tom Hardy behind the wheel dealing with the consequences of his actions. It opens as he is juggling a number of phone calls to his home, work and contacts. Whatever is going on, he seems to be turning his back on a number of responsibilities, both at home and at work. We quickly learn that there is a major construction job underway with what turns out to be the biggest concrete pouring in Europe due in the coming hours, he should be supervising it, instead he is leaving it to one of his men. We see that he is also bailing on his son, not watching the big-match with him.

Locke has made decisions and now he needs to deal with them, he needs to live with them. he is about to have child, but the mother is not his wife. What we see is a man “on the edge”, possibly both figuratively, as much of the film is him trying to control his life and events surrounding him, while at the same time shot completely in the car, with only occasional changes of view to allow the viewer to survive, we watch him correct a mistake, one which cannot really be dealt with in isolation. The use of the car and the phone show how events, though seemingly not connected are often impacted by each other, purely because of the slightest connection, the slightest common denominator, Locke.

If you’ve seen Hardy in works such as Lawless (John Hillcoat, 2012) or Bronson (Nicholas Winding Refn, 2008) or even the current Peaky Blinders on TV which was created by Steven Knight you will know he is a very physical actor, he is also an actor who has learned to use his body, his face, to control the character, to communicate the message and emotion of the scene. There is a scene in Peaky Blinders where new recruits to the criminal enterprise are being briefed, one makes a joke he should not have, Hardy disciplines him by seriously injuring the person standing next to him and them giving a sermon on discipline, you could feel the menace.

From the calls we learn that Locke, is not just some employee, he should be central ot the work being carried out on the site, we hear from his instructions that he knows what he is talking about, indeed it is this very knowledge and the advice he is giving to his junior that tell us just how much he should not be in the car to London right now. Without ever leaving the front seat he brings us in to his life. We could argue that the car is a metaphor, some kind. He and his life are going somewhere at speed, it is not somewhere that he planned to go, but it is something he must do. Just as in life he is trapped by his decisions, so too is he in the car, he is stuck behind the wheel, controlling the journey, on the phone trying to control life.

We can compare this film to recent efforts such as All is Lost (J.C. Chandor, 2013) or Buried (Rodrigo Cortés, I’d go with Buried. This film has been described as a “Dramatic thriller” or just a “thriller”. We might say it is neither, perhaps more one-man melodrama, but personally I would describe it as a thriller, in so far there is an ending, we don’t know what it is but we are along with Locke to see what it is. The use of the car is an interesting tool because it allows Knight to give us an ever changing back-drop, one against which he can display the mental tribulations he is going through. The phone conversations not only tell the story but also allow for his reaction, they are also the story.

This is not a movie about doing the right or wrong thing, this is a movie about consequences, having done wrong, he is now trying to do right. What is more shocking is that to one of his interlocutors on the phone, he is “the last person in the world” who would have been expected to do what he did. We see his integrity trying to fight through. Yes he did wrong, “only once” but the once is the key part, what comes before that once, means nothing, what comes after are the consequences. One might also suggest the building site he is leaving at a critical time is analogous to his family, again he is leaving them to be elsewhere. He talks about foundations of the building and projects he has worked on, his family also needs foundations and he may have undermined those foundations.

I recently gave an opinion on “Under The Skin”, this is also something similar, both movies are tightly focused on one person, every other person or conversation is there to add to the vision of what we see concerning that key character. Both are possibly in alien lands, with little introduction or understanding of them, we the viewer is required to learn as we progress and to judge, are these good or bad people (if you can call Scarlett Johansson’s character a person). We do however get a glimpse of the influences behind the man with his discussions with his late father. This mental exercise, carried-on out loud for us again shows how he is trying to do the right thing and balancing his moral compass through his experiences with his own father.

It is only fair to credit Haris Zambarloukos (Thor, God of Thunder, 2011) who is generally regarded as one of the top practitioners of his art. It cannot be east to work to create a movie scape which keeps us for the best part of 90minutes when you have only one subject. Zambarloukos does this, his focus on hardy, not just from the front but also side on are perfect, as to are outr glimpses of the world go by, whether it is industrial plants or even the row of lights trailing in to the past.

This is a movie for adults, in so far as the content and style will not keep kids or people with an attention span less than 5 minutes.

This is a solid 3 star.


This movie just works is an understated way which moves at a pace which doesn’t outrun itself of get clogged down in slow tedium, it brings you along with the story and keeps you always wanting to see how a particular scene works out. I was happy to see it was based on a book (The Wettest County in the World, Matt Bondurant), which might be worth buying. Nick Cave (The Proposition, 2005) wrote the screenplay.

I mention The Proposition because the Director on that project was John Hillcoat (The Road, 2009), who ofcourse directed this offering. Set in Franklin County, Virginia during the prohibition years of the Great Depression it tracks the lives of the Bondurant brothers who apart from running a diner and garage just outside town also are some of the leading moonshiners in the county. The brothers are led by the quiet and cautious brother Forrest,(Tom Hardy, The Dark Knight Rises, Bane See below) who despite his calm demeanour is more than capable of swift well aimed violence. The middle brother , Howard (Texas Killing Fields, 2011) and of course the youngest of the clan, Jack (Shia LaBeouf Transformers, 2007) who as with all in his position wants to grow up fast and show the world that he is as good as the rest of the family.

The problems start when the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia bring a new Special Deputy down from Chicago, Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce, Lockout 2012)brought in Commonwealth’s Attorney. Fighting an honest lawman is one thing, or living with the local police who know when not to take action is manageable, but Rakes is a crocked as the rest and more vicious than most. Forrest has built up a business by being careful and steady while younger brother Jack is headstrong and eager to succeed.

This of course causes some tensions with Forrest having to clean-up after Jack more than once. Jack however manages to do business with the Chicago mafia, represented by a very under used Gary Oldman (Dead Fish, 2005), if I have one complaint is it the use of Mr. Oldman. His role is essentially a glorified cameo and although it works, I suspect he presence on set had a lot to do with box-office pull.

The movie progresses through a few short years as the brothers battle the police, other boot-legers and themselves until the final showdown. This comes quickly when it comes and is done well.

I mentioned the movie is understated, don’t mistake that for “slow” it is not a slow film, it is a steadily moving story which brings you along with the characters as the story moves along.

This is a good old fashioned prohibition era gangster movie, Mr. Gagney would have worked well here. The cinematography works well with the director using the natural cycles of the surrounding countryside to mark the passing of time.  The use of various signs and props also allows us to almost get a feeling of normality as life goes by.

Rating 8/10