This is without a doubt the greatest drive-in movie of all time, even though drive-ins are pretty much gone. But someone should find an abandoned drive-in somewhere and restore it, just so people can watch this movie. I’d love to be in a car on a hot summer night, the smell of exhaust swirling through the air, and watch this movie glowing on one of those giant screens. I’d crank up the volume and strap myself in for two hours of amazing movie mayhem.
What this movie does so well is strip away all the clutter and only focus on the hardcore essentials, because action fans don’t like anything slowing things down. This is a road trip movie where the only law is to keep going faster and faster, because a fiery death is charging through the gloom right behind you. Every element is riveting and raw, stripped down to its most essential core.
There’s the brooding anti-hero with a haunted past, a beautiful but disfigured heroine with her own anger issues, and a messianic bad guy with a rictus grin that’s even worse than the Joker’s, all of it taking place in a post-apocalyptic landscape that’s a ravaged warning about what will happen if we don’t take care of our planet in the proper way. This warning is posed in the same brutal terms. If we screw things up, then the search for the staples needed to survive – food, water, gas – will be all that’s left of life itself.
The color palette is stripped away too, everything is parched and grimy, dirty and decayed, except for the pristine whiteness of the young women who represent hope for a different kind of future. This is the plot, stripped down too, to transport this fertile cargo away from the hell of the monstrous Citadel to a remembered oasis.
It’s a chase movie, but one that’s a visual onslaught in the best possible way of over-the-top action and roaring high speed warfare, a kind of Cirque du Soleil demolition derby. It’s a delirious mash-up of extreme sports and road kill horror, all of it pumped up by a wild banshee rock star strapped to the front of a barreling big rig slashing at his flame throwing guitar. The dialogue has been whittled down to the bone, because there’s nothing to say that a howling shotgun can’t say a whole lot better.
But there’s also a message that action fans are always wary of, but this is a good one we haven’t seen as vividly before. The real kick-ass heroes in the movie aren’t the usual suspects, but some new recruits. The gruff muscled guy does his part, and the tough chick too, but it’s the seemingly fragile young waifs, a bad boy kid, and a gang of old women on motorcycles who step up and deliver the firepower and courage needed at the end. And I think this is the message of the movie, to blow up the way action movies have always been done, and show there’s a little bit of madness in all of us.