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'Max' Review: A Canine Emotional Snuff Film

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Film | June 26, 2015 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Film | June 26, 2015 |

I had this whole thing planned for writing this review of Max. I was going to launch into a whole spiel about how this wasn’t exactly how I envisioned a retelling of Mad Max from the point of view of his dog, that all the cartoons and claymation trailers running before it were an odd choice for the bit of the ol’ ultra violence and shiny marching into Valhalla coming up, but that after a slow start I really saw the metaphors within metaphors. Hey, the film even starts in a desolate post-apocalyptic wasteland patrolled by armed men and featuring burned out shells of cars. I mean, it’s Afghanistan, but like I said, layers within layers.

It was going to be a funny bit of riffing on the basic fact that there’s not much to talk about when it comes to a feel-good PG movie in which a family adopts the bomb-sniffing dog of their fallen son after he dies in Kandahar. Everyone learns to love, their hearts grow three sizes, we’re kind of bored, but there’s no point ripping apart a serviceable middle of the road film just because it’s not the critic’s cup of tea.

Well, I was wrong.

This was the first movie that I’ve walked out of since Batman and Robin in 1997. This idiotic Lifetime movie on cocaine features a labyrinthine nonsensical plot of gangs, arms smuggling, betrayal by friends, BMX racing, asshole teenagers, grossly offensive stereotypes of Hispanics AND whites presented as cartoonishly racist, bizarrely out of touch video game piracy, dogfighting, and Thomas Haden Church and Lauren Graham hitting career rock bottom like anvils into the Marianas Trench. All that, and you think it might be just so insane it works? Somehow it crams in all that and is utterly boring, feeling like hours upon hours are passing.

But that’s not why I walked out with thirty minutes left. I can take bad movies of pretty much any type. I have no capacity for boredom anymore.

Ah see, but in between all the complete idiocy of every part of this plot is the fact that the movie had one way to introduce dramatic tension: threaten to kill the dog. Over and over again throughout the film, like every ten minutes, the dog’s life is threatened for dramatic effect like that old Mad Magazine cover in animated GIF form and with none of the irony or humor.

The fact that the film goes out of its way to show how sweet this dog is (and kudos to the dog actor, may he have peanut butter filled kongs for the rest of his days, and be blessed in the animal ignorance of how much of assholes the people filming him were) in order to set him up repeatedly as the victim of complete jackholes, just takes it completely over the top in terms of absolute emotional manipulation.

So yeah, I stood up and walked out at the ninety minute mark when the corrupt sheriff ordered the family to have the dog put down after realizing it was witness to his arms deal. Which was on the heels of the father getting a gun to shoot the dog after his son’s asshole friend lied and claimed that the dog was the reason their son died in Afghanistan. Which was on the heels of the dog freaking out at fireworks because of PTSD from the explosion that killed his owner. Which was on the heels of a neighbor threatening to shoot the dog for it barking all night because it was left staked in a yard alone with PTSD. Which was on the heels of the government threatening to put down the dog because it couldn’t work anymore. Which was on the heels of the … well the entire fucking movie.

I had no interest in enduring another half hour of further ratcheted threats against the poor animal, and felt that walking out and writing about it would be more of a statement in the review than sitting through it for no reason. Does the dog die at the end? I don’t know. I didn’t look it up just to spite the filmmakers, even if only in my own head.

Rated PG? This is an emotional snuff film for people who love dogs. Taking a kid to it is basically child abuse.

Fuck this film. Don’t see it.


Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at You can email him here.

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Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.