Saturday, 2 January 2016


Who doesn’t love a dog film? Beethoven, Benji, Hachi, Old Yeller, Turner & Hooch, Red Dog, Eight Below, Marley & Me…We all love seeing the relationship between man and dog, because it’s something most of us can relate to. It’s a timeless, touching bond that has always translated very well to the screen. But, like any genre, it has its duds too. For every Avengers in this world, there’s a Fantastic Four

Out now on DVD & Blu-Ray comes Max. When US marine Kyle Wincott (Robbie Amell) dies in combat, his endlessly loyal military dog Max is so traumatised by the incident he can no longer serve – dogs can get post-traumatic stress disorder too, we’re told. At the funeral, Max sniffs out Kyle’s younger brother Justin (Josh Wiggins) and an unlikely bond is formed. The Wincott family take Max in, and they all learn to love each other and move on together. How sweet. If that was the entire plot, it would’ve been okay. Still not a great film, but touching. Instead, the film falls into the trap of becoming a daft, action thriller for kids in which Kyle’s best friend from the war comes to visit the Wincott family – a man we learn is actually a bad bastard, smuggling weapons into the US and selling them to Mexican cartels. Of course, the young and inexperienced Justin takes it upon himself to save the day with Max’s help. It all gets a bit daft here and while I’m sure younger audiences would be on the edge of their seats, to me…it just felt ridiculous. And yet, I expected nothing less. Max falls into cliché and predictability, and it falls hard.

Acting-wise, there’s nothing particularly special here in the human cast. Wiggins is pretty mediocre as the young Justin, while the great Thomas Haden Church’s performance as the Wincott patriarch is one of his worst efforts yet. His heart was not in it at all – I can’t say I blame him in this film, but be a professional, man. You clearly did this for the money, but have some dignity and just try to act. Yes, every human in the film is totally outshined by Carlos the dog, who puts in a stunning performance as Max. He shows grief, he shows joy, he shows anger, he shows fear, and he finally shows acceptance…He shows everything. And he’s a bloody dog. Bravo, Carlos. Extra biscuits for you. Max steals every scene he’s in – obviously, the film is Max. So when he’s not around and we’re forced to spend time with the Wincott family or Justin and his awful friends, it’s pretty unbearable. For example, Justin’s pre-Max life involves illegally downloading games (boo) and selling them for profit to a local gangster named Emilio. Yeah…

Max isn’t a great film, but its target audience of youngsters and dog-lovers will eat it up. Watching it with my mother and sister, I could barely hear the film over the “awww”s and tears from them, but I’m sure it’d be a different story if I watched it with someone else. Like anything, Max has its target audience in mind and is purely here to entertain them. It’s not expecting to get the science fiction crowd in, or the horror buffs. But still, even with this target audience in mind, it is not a film of quality. The acting, the script and the cinematography makes it feel like a glorified TV movie; the kind you’d find on the Hallmark channel. Despite this, Max has good, innocent intentions and I’m sure it will entertain the kids for a couple of hours.

But on the whole, Max stinks of missed opportunity. The bond between dogs and soldiers on the frontlines is incredibly moving, and the stories you read about that could easily make a film. Max could’ve been that. But instead, it relies on the age-old premise of boy meets dog, and combining that with a weak predictable narrative and poor acting, Max suffers for it. Still, the film finishes on a strong note, dedicating itself to the dogs and handlers who have died in combat as we see a series of photographs through the years of dogs in the military as the film ends. It’s truly inspiring. But, it says a lot when the best part of a film is its end credits.

Max is like a puppy. Its heart is in the right place as it gazes at you longingly for love and respect. But then it shits all over the floor. 2/5.


Sam Love

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