Gerry Farrell: Take it to the Max

Tom Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road
Tom Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road
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I wasn’t sure what to expect when I took my son and stepson to see Mad Max at Ocean Terminal.

Action sequels usually leave me cold. People swooping from high buildings, massive ­fireball explosions and endless amounts of scenes obviously generated by computer.

I take it all back. Mad Max: Fury Road is an action-movie work of art. From the moment Max stomps on a mutant, two-headed lizard then eats it, I realised that the only real plot in this blockbuster is: “Survive at all costs.” Daringly, the hero isn’t even Max, it’s Imperator Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron, shaven-headed, grim-faced and missing half an arm. She betrays her warlord master by smuggling his five, imprisoned “breeder” wives out of his citadel in the belly of a petrol tanker. There follows two hours of unstoppable car chase. It’s violent but not bloody, like a great graphic novel.

The director George Miller – 32 when he shot his first Mad Max film – is now 70 and was given $150 million (£98m) of a budget and full creative control. His vision is never less than full-on entertainment.

It’s worth the admission alone just to see Coma The Doof Warrior, a man in a red dress, strapped to the front of a “war rig” by bungee cords, playing metal riffs on an electric guitar with plumes of fire belching from its neck.

You don’t realise just how crappy and clichéd most action movies are until you sit through the reckless, relentless rollercoaster that is Mad Max: Fury Road. Inspiration for the movie came from Miller’s early experiences as a doctor working in the emergency room of a Sydney hospital. He had to treat an endless stream of seriously injured young male drivers who seemed to take a perverse pride in their high-speed brushes with death.

One of the heroes of the film is the landscape, a moody expanse of unforgiving red rock and shimmering, shifting sand.

The crew filmed six days a week for five months in the Namibian desert, where you need to drink four litres of water a day just to stay hydrated. Nearly all the stunts and car chases were carried out for real, including shots of marauding trail bike warriors bouncing their machines up to 30ft into the air.

It’s the kind of movie my other half would normally run a mile from, as it sounds so macho. But I’m going to make her see it anyway because I haven’t seen an action movie this good since I watched Star Wars.

The fact that Charlize Theron is the main character has infuriated the same knuckle-draggers who thought Jeremy Clarkson should have been instantly forgiven for punching his producer. That and the fact the movie is essentially a feminist tale about the slavery, trafficking and exploitation of women.

Girls, don’t be put off by the hype. It’s not a rom-com but I think you’ll still love it.

Trout shout

I caught four plump rainbow trout on the dry fly at Coldingham Loch last Friday and took two of them to my neighbours. By way of barter, they gave me a mince pie from Bain’s the Butcher’s at Stenhouse Cross. If there’s a heaven, these will be the pies in God’s oven. It’s even worth driving past Tynecastle to buy one yourself.

My tattoo can’t turn tide for seahorses

Eighteen years ago I was sitting on the sofa watching TV with my daughter, who was nine at the time. We were blethering.

I asked her: “What would you think if I got a tattoo?”

“What would you get?” she replied.

“A seahorse, I think.”

She rolled up the sleeve of her cardigan and on her wrist was a temporary tattoo — of a seahorse.

Later that year I was in Los Angeles on a film shoot for two weeks. On a rest day we were sent to Malibu for lunch. It was one of those epic lunches that last from noon until evening. By the time our driver arrived to pick us up, I was abundantly refreshed. I asked him if he knew any good tattoo parlours.

He said: “I know a few bad ones.”

“Take me to the baddest,” I said.

He dropped me off in a dodgy area behind Venice Beach, just as the sun was going down, at a place called Venice Tattoo. My client and work colleagues abandoned me there and I went in.

The tattooist, a scrawny guy with muscly arms and a goatee with a bead in it, said: “Oh man, you shouldn’t be here this time of night. Not safe.”

“But I want a seahorse tattoo.”

“OK, but this is a tattoo place for gangsters, this guy I’m doing here is a Latino gangster.”

“Hi Alvarez”, I said.

“How’d you know my name, dude?”

“Because you’re having it tattooed on your back, Alvarez.”

“Oh yeah,” he said, and grinned, showing me a mouth full of gold teeth.

I was given a stack of old tattoo books to leaf through and after an hour of searching I finally found an illustration of a seahorse. It took two hours to do. The tattooist who claimed that in his previous job he was “head tattooist at the state penitentiary” gave me a litre bottle of Mickey’s Big Mouth Malt Liquor to drink “to kill the pain”, he said. To be honest, I was feeling no pain anyway.

Once he was done, he said: “that’s $50 buddy”. I checked my pockets. Empty.

“I’ve no money,” I said, laughing.

“That ain’t funny mister,” said the tattooist. It was dark outside and the tattoo parlour’s waiting area was filling up with mean-looking men. The door opened. In walked my client. “Can you lend me $50?” I asked.

With a seahorse on my bicep, I have a natural affinity for these fragile fish that have been with us since the dinosaurs.

Seahorses mate for life. The male, with his pot belly like a middle-aged beer drinker, is the only creature on the planet that has a reverse pregnancy. He carries the babies from eggs deposited in his pouch by the female. Giving birth is slow. The contractions can last for 12 hours. Once born, the babies are left to fend for themselves. Only one in 1000 survive their many predators. But that’s not the only threat.

Thanks to the Chinese traditional medicine trade, seahorses are likely to be extinct in 20-30 years. The Chinese take 150 million from the wild every year and powder them into medicine they believe is a natural aphrodisiac. The curios trade takes a million more, leaving them to die in the scorching sun to be sold to tourists as souvenirs or grotesque earrings.

The pet trade takes a million too but only about 1000 survive longer than six weeks in captivity. Dried, dead seahorses are worth about $600 a kilo, so it’s a hard trade to put a stop to. Sad to think that by the time I’m an old codger, the only seahorses around may be pictures in books and the wee blue tattoo on my arm.