Movie review: "Mad Max: Fury Road" is a wild work of action art

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

My most-anticipated movie of the summer lived up to the anticipation. Boy, that doesn't happen often enough. But "Mad Max: Fury Road" delivers all the stylish and dusty mayhem I could handle for two fast and furious hours.

George Miller's reboot of his post-apocalyptic world is bigger, grittier and wilder than anything you'll see this summer. Bonus points: There's feminist thrust to the plot that has grumpy "men's rights" activists whining "bait and switch," which only added to my enjoyment.

Miller sets his grim tone early, puts the pedal to the floor and only lets up enough to establish a surprisingly meaningful plot, since "Fury Road" is essentially a two-hour chase scene.

In a world starved for water, fertile ground and oil, Imperator Furiosa (a badass Charlize Theron) crosses paths with Max Rockatansky (a badass Tom Hardy) as they are both on the run from a tyrannical warlord.

Miller's world is brutal, oddly beautiful and completely its own. It's a world familiar to fans of the series, but it's never been done on this scale, and it was worth waiting decades for.

Hardy is brooding and great as expected, but Theron's strong and intensely driven Furiosa owns the movie - at least as much as an actor can in a movie this crammed with action and visuals. There's also great support from Nicholas Hoult as a henchmen who embodies the desperation of the desolate world.

The story that evolves is thoughtful and thought-provoking, but this is one of the most pure action movies ever. That just doesn't mean it's dumb.

Miller's deft direction leaves breathless sequences of sheer chaos that are somehow still sharply focused. Whereas directors like Michael Bay like to throw everything at the camera and see what sticks, "Fury Road" leaves you in the middle of the action without feeling like you're lost in it.

There is virtually nothing to find fault in the execution. The stuntwork is utterly insane, the cinematography is stellar, and the score is a perfect fit.

I will say that the "best action movie in decades" superlatives critics are hurling at this movie may set expectations higher than the movie can reach. The connection to characters is impressive given all the action, but the experience is more visceral than emotional. And as wild as the action is, it isn't particularly varied - although one last wild twist in the final leg of the chase is a great touch.

These quibbles are minor. "Fury Road" is a jolt for the cookie-cutter blockbuster cycle. I hope it makes a ton of money, so we can get a little art back in the action flick.

"Mad Max: Fury Road"

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3 ½ stars out of 4