Well-intentioned but clumsy canine drama, with Thomas Haden Church
Filmmaker Boaz Yakin impressed Sundance with his debut feature Fresh back in 1994. Set in a Brooklyn housing project, it focused on everyday occurrences of gun crime, as seen through the eyes of a young black boy. Over 20 years later and Yakin is still concerned with guns, violence and hypocrisy, but this time chooses to explore these themes in an overly sentimental, ham-fisted family drama about a dog named Max, who is suffering from PTSD after returning from Afghanistan.
When Max’s handler Kyle (Robbie Amell) is killed in action the dog doesn’t take it well, and is consequently discarded by the US Marines. But he is taken in by Kyle's family due to their sense of responsibility and respect for those who have served their country. Kyle’s younger brother Justin (Josh Wiggins), however, is fervently against what his brother and ex-marine father Ray (Thomas Haden Church, chomping the scenery) did for a living. He rebels by pirating computer games and, as you do, getting embroiled in a war with a Mexican gun-running cartel.
It is from the midway point, when Max starts snarling at Kyle’s marine friend Tyler (Luke Kleintank), that the film gets really silly, with it actually starting to resemble the narrative of expertly crafted thriller The Guest, minus any of the wit or style. But you get the impression that Yakin was aiming more for the Spielbergian camaraderie of E.T., with Justin and his two friends riding about on their BMX bikes in order to save the day.
Despite its good intentions, the dynamic of a family adventure film, particularly such a sanitised one, simply doesn’t suit this story of an all-American household whose eyes are opened to the corruption of their country, as it never allows for truly scathing commentary.
Selected release from Fri 7 Aug.