Take a Drink: for un-Murican vices
Take a Drink: for flags
Take a Drink: whenever Justin makes a stinkface
Take a Drink: whenever Max does something your lazy fuck dog would never do
Do a Shot: for that transparent dig at La Raza
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Man, I had some jokes queued up for this film. At first I was going to write the entire review as if I though I’d bought a ticket to Mad Max, then I considered pushing this over to Almond Black on a supremely patriotic streak (this does end in a crane shot of an American flag to a Toby Keith rendition of “Forever Young”). The line “Max sees the world in Black & White, you know, like a dog” was all queued up and ready to go. And yet… there was a bit more to Max than I was expecting.
The plot, as reported, is kinda all over the place. Max is a military dog who seems to be able to sniff out danger of most any type. When his handler (Robbie Amell) is killed in a firefight, a PTSD-inflicted Max (yep) is adopted by his trainer’s sullen younger brother (Josh Wiggins) and mother and father (Lauren Graham and Thomas Haden Church). Then a low rent The Guest soldier/unit mate of his brother (Luke Kleintank) shows up, and the kid and Max run afoul of his plot to sell confiscated Taliban arms to a Mexican Cartel.
Add some scary Rap Music and dudes making out and you’d have all those white anxiety boxes checked
First off, Boaz Yakin of Fresh and Remember the Titans fame delivers a polished, professional film and shoots the third act action very well, showing an eye for and interest in detail rarely bothered with by most directors of films of this ilk (I especially liked how the pistol shots to the tires and engine block of the truck didn’t do much of anything to it, and how the ammo started cooking off once it had wrecked). The cast is (almost) uniformly able to make something of the admittedly pedestrian script, with Wiggins and ultraconfident newcomer Mia Xitlali selling a very credible teen fling and Church bringing his usual strong work to a character that proves much more complex than at first blush. They succeed in that most important acting task- making you empathize with and care for them.
More interesting, though, was the Max I saw wasn’t the hyper-patriotic, low-IQ G.I. Air Bud pablum that the trailer was selling. The confusion of many reviewers is right, but only if you try to examine the film using that lens (admittedly, there are plenty of elements, like said Toby Keith song, that inspire doubt). Like American Sniper, the rah-rah ‘Merica elements turned on or off the cable news herd mind switch in so many folks that the more complex anti-war and ambivalence towards America’s thirst for clear-cut heroes messages were thrown out with the bathwater.
Screaming talking points is screaming talking points.
It’s telling that while the clear villain of the film delivers the standard “I’m not the enemy, it’s the military-industrial complex that sends our boys off to die for nebulous reasons” speech, Max never even attempts to refute it.
I mean, who the fuck else has benefited from the last decade and a half’s grist-mill?
Don’t get me wrong, this is no American Sniper. There’s still a bit of tonal dodginess here and there, some forehead-smacking “jokes”, and Chuy, the obligatory Mexican comic relief kid who is, of course, named Chuy. He’s clearly the product of a writer who’s had very little contact with either teenagers or Mexicans, all “yo’s” and “b’s”, but then again considering how much love Dope‘s getting despite Tony Revolori essentially playing the same character, meh.
It’s the script that’s the clear weakest link here. Not only do you have that sieve of a conflict with the Cartels and the Talibans and the Guests, but they keep ratcheting up the stakes by putting the dog, not the humans, in unnecessary jeopardy. Why does The Guest hate Max so much? If he was less of an asshole towards him and let him stay in his cage at home instead of getting him sent to the pound to break out and go all White God on his ass, everything would’ve been peaches for everybody.
The pound just makes them stronger… and angrier
Also, there’s no way in hell a dog can track a car miles and miles from the scent of something its driver handled. Max does this twice.
I was entirely prepared to eviscerate the movie Max‘s trailers sold me, and very surprised to find Max wasn’t really that movie at all.