Thursday, 1 December 2016

"Mad Max: Fury Road" (2015) - Exploitation Cinema - A review.

Fig 1.
"Mad Max: Fury Road" (2015) dir. George Millar depicts the ongoing trials of "Max Rockatansky", this time played by Tom Hardy. An ex-transport cop struggling to survive himself, starvation and mad road gangs in a fuel crisis induced post apocalyptic wasteland. A franchise born in a wave of "Ozploitation" films, with pretensions of greatness beyond its own genre.

Fury Road bares the hallmark of early exploitation cinema, stark violence, depraved characters and sex. This time around however, the formula is evolved by splicing in progressive gender politics, all the while still succeeding in sporting the original characteristics of exploitation cinema, where women were less at the forefront of the narrative and instead objectified. Elizabeth King, guest writing for btchflicks.com muses that "Hallmarks of a typical action movie are scenes and characters that include violence, destruction, bulging muscles, fire, fast cars, and attractive (but mostly irrelevant to the plot) women" (King, 2015) Here, instead of being an aside, a titillation designed to get bums in seats, they form the basis of the narrative. As much as Mad Max owes to exploitation and Ozploitation cinema, Noah Berlatsky argues that "Fury Road hasn’t generally been thought of as a WIP film. But much of it has been lifted directly from that genre. The whole movie is organised around a prison escape. Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is freeing a group of women from sex slavery at the hands of the evil patriarch Immortan Joe (Berlatsky, 2015) It can be seen that Fury Road is a film that plays out on multiple stages; superficially as a straight action movie or much deeper, a reflection of the complicated gender politics at play in contemporary culture.  

It is interesting to consider, that Max isn't really the main character here. Instead, Furiosa takes the lead, literally driving the plot forward and providing the most in terms of character moments/building. Max was anything but a hero in the previous three films, but Fury Road sends a clear message, Max isn't your hero at all

Down that particular vein a few observations can be made, firstly, all of the villains are men, and all of them hypermasculine in some shape or form. "But this is, in large part, the beauty of the film. Fury Road delivers all the high speed vehicles, bloodthirsty men, car chases, and explosions we want and expect in action movies, but these images are intentionally presented in such an extreme manner, rendering them absurd" (King, 2015) It is with this egregious and gratuitos chest beating that exploitation cinema itself is critiqued, and the nuanced way in which this is done, "the audience can’t help but have their exhilaration filtered through criticism" (King, 2015).

Fig 2.
This time around, Max is the foil for this narrative, the witness if you will. His masculinity is displayed in a far more stoic and downplayed manor, he is far more cooperative and level headed when helping Furiosa, plunging our headspace firmly in a meta discussion over gender roles and the efficacy of the male. In fact, Max spends the a quarter of the movie chained up by the 'War Boys', showing that he himself is at mercy to the crazed barbarity of the hypermasculine horde. In some ways, the narrative is a gentle reminder to those with the right mindset, that the genders can work together and be of benefit to each other, this notion is hit home with the parting shot between Max and Furiosa.

Fig 3.
Of the narrative, It can be said that there isn't much at play here. The film speeds by in a ceaseless charge, sticking well and truly to the mold of its forebears, playing out as an action driven thrill ride through the wasteland. Writing for CinemaScope.com, Christopher Huber comments that "The action also drives the story, its arc an absurd, adrenaline-boosting, back-and-forth movement in search of a fabled matriarchal idyll, punctuated by little pockets of breathing space" (Huber, 2015) And indeed, this relentlessness makes for an incredibly efficient and taught viewing experience, whilst also firmly placing it within the exploitation genre.

Ultimately Fury Road is a work of metafiction, reflecting on tropes inherent in exploitation cinema and repurposing them into a thoughtfully written and effective teardown of the male dominated scene of exploitation cinema. It is also a well crafted action movie that can paradoxically be enjoyed for all of the tropes it seeks to make light of.


Berlatsky, Noah "Mad Max: Fury Road is less radical than its B-movie influences" [online]
https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/26/mad-max-fury-road-less-radical-exploitation-influences [Accessed 01/12/2016]

Hubert, Christopher "Mad Max: Fury Road" [online] http://cinema-scope.com/currency/mad-max-fury-road-george-miller-australiaus/ [Accessed 01/12/2016]

King, Elizabeth "Mad Max: Fury Road’ Allows Audiences to Both Enjoy and Problematize Hypermasculinity" [online] http://www.btchflcks.com/2015/06/mad-max-fury-road-allows-audiences-to-both-enjoy-and-problematize-hypermasculinity.html#.WDTn-_mLSHt [Accessed 01/12/2016]


Fig 1. Mad Max: Fury Road Poster. [image] Available at: http://sushibomb.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/MAD_MAX_1080x608_GooglePlus_Cover_Main_4R1.jpg [Accessed 01/12/2016]

Fig 2. Immortan Joe. [image] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/film/mad-max-fury-road/mad-max-immortan-joe-xlarge.jpg [Accessed 01/12/2016]

Fig 3. Max in chains. [image] Available at: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/hEJnMQG9ev8/maxresdefault.jpg [Accessed 01/12/2016]

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