Like the many, many ingenious vehicles it has roaring and exploding across the screen, Mad Max: Fury Road is a giant scrapyard jalopy.

Its component parts are of disparate vintages. It's some kind of miracle that they fit together, let alone become this high-speed thrill machine.

It's another kind of miracle that once it's in high-gear, this hot-rod of a film stays there for almost two hours with little let-up.

It's loud. It's unrelenting. It's crazily exciting, and, at times, it's just bloody weird.

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As a movie, it probably has a dreadful carbon footprint. And no, it's not original.

Yes, Fury Road is, of course, yet another remake, reboot or re-imagining with veteran Australian director George Miller returning to the character which he first unleashed in his original gnarly 1979 B-picture, a film which also made a star of a young Mel Gibson.

Then came the post-apocalyptic Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior followed by 1985's relatively mild Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.

As George Lucas and Steven Spielberg know, adding more to earlier trilogy triumphs so many years later is a risky business.

Seventy year-old Miller, whose biggest other hits as a director have been the Babe and Happy Feet movies, might seem to have long moved on to gentler, greener pastures.

But his fourth Max is just as berserk as any of the others. It seems Miller has gone back to Road Warrior - the previous maddest of this Maxes - for the brutal tone of this.

While cannibalizing bits of the earlier films and their mythology, Fury Road stands apart from them too. You don't need to have seen them to get a kick out of this. But it will also reward your affection for the old movies too.

While the previous flicks had an identifiably Australian setting - they came juiced by Aussie petrolhead and bikie culture - this one, shot mostly in the eye-scorchingly epic deserts of Namibia, exists in a post-everything world of its own.

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And, despite Tina Turner's Thunderdome theme of old, Miller did need another hero. He's effectively got two. There's Tom Hardy as Max, a guy who is neither as pretty or as talkative as his predecessor but clearly more damaged.

He effectively ends up riding shotgun to Charlize Theron's Imperator Furiosa.

Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road

She starts out as the amputee bionic-armed road warrior in the service of Immortan Joe, the grotesque despot - though he does have Tina's hair - who rules over the Citadel, a rock city towering above the desert.

Played behind the oxygen mask by Hugh Keays-Byrne who was villain The Toecutter in the first Max, Joe is a tyrant with a hydrant, rationing water to the dirt-dwelling rabble below.

He also commands his own private army of over-caffeinated "War Boys", and sustained by his own breeding and dairying operation with the female population.

When Max is taken prisoner in the Citadel, he ends up as a blood donor to ailing war boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult) whose genes are suffering a radiation hangover from whatever turned to the old world to dust.

When Furiosa decides one of her fuel delivery trips will be an escape for her and Joe's harem, a muzzled Max ends up as a hood ornament cum drip stand on the front of a Nux's pursuing car.

Eventually, Max winds up, still with enough plasma, aboard Furiosa's heavily-armed road train tanker carrying Joe's willowy young brides to their desert sunset fashion shoot ... ah, no some sort of sanctuary.

That's via encounters with various local tribes with one feeling like the action has strayed into the Tatooine X-games.

That's just one of half a dozen or more spectacular vehicular battles rendered often in long takes with little visible digital effects enhancement. Miller who also brings back some of the early films' trademark overcranked speed-zooms.

Sure, there's a software-generated sandstorm which unleashes a different kind of hell.

Visually, Fury Road is also a movie of stark beauty, especially in the few minutes of its 120 on screen it decides to sit still and take in the scenery.

Not that it's quiet very often.

This is a car chase movie which brings its own band along. One of the chase vehicles carries a flame-throwing metal guitarist backed by a tribal mass percussion section.

Add the war boys mounted high on poles high above and the Slipknot-meets-Cirque insanity gives Fury Road much of its hardcore cartoon humour.

A scene from Mad Max: Fury Road
A scene from Mad Max: Fury Road

Max himself sure isn't a lot of laughs. Hardy only has a few lines, his back story filled in with nightmare flashbacks, one looking like it's lifted a frame of one of Max's former victims from the early films. But he's a commanding presence.

Theron, though, starts out in the driving seat and pretty much stays there throughout.

No, Furiosa can't save those girls - ho ho - single-handed. But she's the human touch in this inhumane world and the madly beating heart of this technical wonder of a movie.


Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult
Director: George Miller
Rating: R16 (violence and content may disturb)
Running time: 120 mins
Verdict: The biggest maddest Max