"Mad Max: Fury Road"

Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron star in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which is playing in area theaters now.

Hollywood is sexist. Let’s get that out of the way.

Less than 2 percent (1.9 percent) of the top-grossing 100 films from the last two years were directed by women, according to a University of Southern California study. Another USC study reportedly concluded in 2013 that the percentage of female characters speaking on screen dipped to a five-year low of 28.4 percent in 2012.

More often than not, women are relegated to supporting cast. They play the girlfriend, the mother, the wife, the damsel in distress.

Lord, it’s boring. I’ve always wondered why the meatiest roles usually go to men.

And then I saw “Mad Max: Fury Road” and realized the film was quite inappropriately named. You see, Max (Tom Hardy) is a supporting character and honestly, the film could survive if he was left out completely.

It’s the first “Mad Max” movie I’ve seen and honestly, if it wasn’t for a cute boy asking, I wouldn’t have seen this one. But, I’m glad I did.

The “Mad Max” films are post-apocalyptic, or the films in which everyone is always in desperate need of a shower as they roam around the desert. Yes, I classify them like that.

It took probably 30 minutes or so for the movie to get rolling, i.e. catch my attention. Having never seen the original “Mad Max” movies, I might have been a little disinterested in what I was seeing up until that point.

And then the amazing Charlize Theron took control of the movie. She’s like Lucy — Linus’ sister, not the superheroine in a recent blockbuster — with that football. She holds it out their for Max, then pulls it away at the last second and walks away with the game ball.

Theron stars as Imperator Furiosa, a character worthy of being the film’s namesake. Furiosa is an evil warlord’s top soldier. She follows orders and gets the job done. I’m going to say that she’s not a woman you’d like to meet in a dark alley. Assuming there are dark alleys in a post-apocalyptic world.

One day, though, Furiosa goes rogue while on a gasoline run — water and gasoline are in limited supply. Her cargo is something much more valuable, though — the young wives of the warlord. Yes, there are multiple wives, and their primary goal is baby-making. What else are young, nubile women for? I didn’t see any checkerboards.

Furiosa hopes to take them to the “green place.” It’s where she’s from. Water flows and vegetation grows. It’s a land where hope lives and freedom is a right given to all.

Unfortunately, like all warlords, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) doesn’t like losing his property, err, his wives. He and his army go after the escapees, but Furiosa and Co. are in a heavily armored war rig, capable of going hard and fast and taking on all that stand in their way.

Oh yeah, Furiousa also rescues Max, who has been captured by Joe’s “war boys” and is being used as a blood bank. Apparently the apocalypse wiped out the American Red Cross and its competitors. Anyway, many in the warlord’s community are not healthy. They’re deformed or living “half lives.” Healthy humans, like Max, are used to sustain the rest.

Max goes along for the ride to help Furiosa in her cause. Notice, he’s the supporting cast. It’s her show, and she controls their fate. It’s a dynamic not seen in a lot of action movies.

Furiosa is the better shot. He recognizes this. He offers suggestions but their fate rests ultimately in her hands. He also respects her decisions. In doing so, director George Miller has destroyed the tired old stereotypes we’ve seen over and over again (over and over again) in action films.

Furiosa has qualities we’ve come to associate with both male and female archetypes. There is the nurturing and hope that we see in a motherly figure. She has taken these young women into her care and will watch over them. But there’s also the grit and grr of the male action hero. She takes no prisoners. She’s had a hard life, and she has come this far through blood, sweat and tears. She will kill and destroy anyone who stands in her way.

It’s a brilliant performance by Theron. That’s not to take anything away from Hardy’s Max. He isn’t the heart of this film though. He’s comic relief at times. He’s a man you know is dangerous, but we don’t need to see it. He’s the utility player, doing whatever needs to be done for the group.

On a side note, I do dock Hardy points for essentially using his Bane — as in villain of “The Dark Knight Rises” — voice. The man has a wide range of accents and vocal stylings to choose from, and while Max doesn’t say a lot, he didn’t need to sound like Bane.

“Mad Max: Fury Road” has it all. There’s action, laughs and excitement that just keeps rolling. But most importantly, it avoids the love story element that many action movies try to incorporate to draw in female viewers. That’s right, Hollywood, women don’t need a romance to want to watch your movie.

Total aside, but I hope the rumors I’ve heard about “Batman v Superman” are unfounded. One possible storyline for Wonder Woman’s inclusion is that she’s a love interest for one of the title characters. That’s ridiculous, stupid and reduces a badass female hero to nothing more than a shiny trophy for a man. As seen here, female badasses don’t need a romance storyline.

“Mad Max: Fury Road” — or “Imperator Furiosa: Fury Road,” as it should be called — is an audience pleaser, and it’s one of the most refreshing action movies I’ve seen. I’m not the biggest fan of the action genre, granted, but it’s nice to see a film that is more than just explosions, one-liners and women whose entire purpose is to get the audience turned on. Don’t take my word for it, though. Check it out for yourself and see the movie that changes a genre and MAYBE helps change Hollywood.

Amanda Greever is the assistant managing editor of The Daily Times. Contact her at amanda.greever@thedailytimes.com, follow her on Twitter @agreever_editor and “Like” Weekend on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dailytimesweekend.

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