MAD MAX FURY ROAD
Where do you begin with Tom Hardy? Somewhat vague and elusive off screen, Hardy leaves his body of work to speak for him. Arguably the most interesting English actor since Gary Oldman, Hardy has already begun to accrue an impressive CV of characters who will ultimately define his career but in this double feature review, we witness both sides to this broad double edge sword.
Max. My name is Max. That’s my name…
Both Mad Max Rockatansky and Bob Saginowski are victims of their environment, doomed to wander the bleak landscape living off their wits and nerve, past deeds hanging around their waists like anchors. Switch out the barren deserts of post apocalyptic Australia for the present day blue collar neighbourhoods of Brooklyn and both men’s fates remain; how they choose to react to the daily grind defines them. They are survivors.
Mad Max Fury Road – 4.5 / 6
The original mad max trilogy was very much of its time but whether you are a fan or not – or even seen it – bears little relation to this outing. Like so many in Hollywood with only one identifying franchise under their belts, George Miller has been talking Mad Max 4 for nearly two decades. Fortunately, too much time has passed for Mel Gibson to reprise his role (and a touch of bile-spewing anti-Semitism), paving the way for Tom Hardy to breath life into the hard nosed, scavenging outlander.
Channelling Bane via Mr. Bean, Hardy’s Max is a man of few words, unable to vocalise just how massively inconvenienced he is by the events unravelling around him. First captured by the war boys and then forced to flee with Furiosa, Hardy is at times merely along for the ride playing fourth fiddle to Nicholas Hoult, Charlize Theron and the true star… spine-shuddering action. You can no longer claim that they just don’t make ‘em like they used to for here we have a symphony of wide-eyed, automotive destruction as super charged cars and armoured tankers pirouette through arcs of sand and flame. Possibly over compensating for the plot – essentially Theron’s Furiosa strikes out east in an escape attempt only to discover that paradise city does not exist so comes back again – by the time the credits roll you feel assaulted on all fronts, relieved you can finally pause for breath but ultimately eagerly anticipating the next instalment of bizarre dystopian characters and bone crunching action.
The Drop – 3.5 / 6
The big screen adaptation of Boston based crime writer Dennis Lehane’s short novella Animal Rescue sees Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini star as Brooklyn bartenders in the titular neighbourhood pub. Having lost his bar to local mobsters, Marv (Gandolfini) and Cousin Bob Saginowski are forced to operate a safe drop for the ill gotten gains of the Chechen gangsters who now frequent their establishment.
They never see you coming, do they, Bob?
Bob Saginowski is Tom Hardy’s bread and butter. Quiet, awkward, mono-syllabic and border line dim-witted, he is a locked box of secrets, tension and potential rage. The proverbial coiled spring. A lifetime of clearing up after his cousin, Bob claims to no longer be in the life but is the life finished with him? Following a heist on the bar one night, Bob is squarely placed where he doesn’t want to be, weighing up family loyalty against the threats of his mobster bosses. Rooting for Bob, your heart’s lifted as love interest Nadia (Noomi Rapace) and the adorable abandoned pit bull Rocco enter his life offering an outlet for his care and attention but even these are threatened by his involvement with the bar. In his last appearance on the big screen, the legendary James Gandolfini plays cousin Marv as Tony Soprano removed from power. Longing for the days he was feared and respected, he now offers crude moral anecdotes to a captive audience at the bar he used to own. How far is he willing to go to regain self-worth and respect and who will he harm along the way?
The main criticism I could levy as a huge fan of Dennis Lehane is the story feels under developed and as a result, there’s a constant sense that a full length novel would have fleshed out the characters, back story and motives sufficiently to produce a great movie. The next Mystic River. Instead, it all falls a little short. Hardy and Gandolfini are reliably engaging and the jeopardy to Bob’s church going life keeps you attentive but the under nourished character arcs ultimately leave you wanting more.
Part of the Bale / Nolan generation of British film making, the future is exciting for fans of Tom Hardy but with the Kray twins on the horizon and the remainder of a new Mad Max trilogy, Bob Saginowski will probably be drowned out by the Bane’s and Bronson’s of this world. But to forget him all together would be to do this contained and simmering performance an injustice.
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