These Final HoursAs we await the reboot of the franchise with the May 2015 release of Mad Max: Fury Road, director/screenwriter Zak Hilditch offers a tantalizing glimpse at what a Mad Max prequel might look like in the early going of his feature, These Final Hours. It’s the end of the world, don’t you know it, but everyone is a hell of a long way from feeling fine. Suicide and homicide have become Australia’s twin national sports with rape, robbery, and pillaging hanging in there as sentimental favorites. Corpses dangle from lampposts, and machete-wielding maniacs carjack passing vehicles to drive them to their next act of retribution. What’s a young Aussie male to do, but run out on his pregnant girlfriend one last time and head for the true party to end all parties, where he can go out in a blaze of tequila, ecstasy, gunfire, and glory? Unfortunately, this promising start in nihilism, hyper-violence, and general bad-assedness is completely undone by the source of ruination of too many genre movies – children.

Exactly as was the case 55 years ago with On The Beach, an apocalypse has been unleashed, and Australia will feel its effects last. This time, it’s not a nuclear holocaust, but a comet striking the earth and unleashing a tsunami of hellfire that is swallowing the world one continent at a time, according to the homemade radio broadcast that serves as narration. The other profound difference with the 1959 classic that starred Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner is that there is not a residual stiff upper lip to be found anywhere in the country. Oz reverts back to its convict roots in its last moments with the inmates conducting the most grandiose prison riot imaginable.

James (Nathan Phillips) is a lowlife with a conscience, cinema’s male counterpart to the whore with a heart of gold. He sees no point in consoling his soon-to-be-dead girlfriend Zoe (Jessica De Gouw), even if she is carrying their never-to-be-born unborn child, but he can’t help but come to the aid of a young girl, Rose (Angourie Rice), who has become separated from her father and kidnapped by two scumbags, who plan to spend their final moments committing the foulest act imaginable. James rescues Rose, but at the expense of the movie, as it now shifts to a predictable tale of reunion and redemption. He must somehow return her to her family, so they can be together at the end. While on this perilous journey, James must come to terms with his own mistakes and find life’s meaning before it’s too late.

Great storyline for a Lifetime movie, but kind of sucks ass for a genre flick.

Phillips, previously seen as the unlucky backpacker in the Australian slasher classic, Wolf Creek, plays a strong antihero before the script forgoes edge in favor of sentiment. Rice is also fine as the girl barely old enough to comprehend what is happening, who finds herself receiving the rudest of lessons in humanity’s shortcomings. The rest of the cast also fill their roles nicely, and the film is well shot, particularly the early scenes of mayhem as well as the frenetic party that James and Rose eventually reach. The real problem is that kids and krazy don’t mix, and by opting for the former, director/screenwriter Hilditch squanders his good work in constructing the latter.

Two stars.

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