Movie Review – ‘MAX’

“Rather than focus squarely on a returning 4-legged war hero and the hundreds of lives he saved, this movie shuns, ignores and places misguided blame at the paws of one of our nation’s most loyal and dedicated military working dogs.”    – REEL BRIEF.com

Max cover

During my twenty-four years of Air Force service, I experienced my share of guarded checkpoints entering military bases and embassies around the world. Over the course of my career I noticed a distinct change in how entry points were manned and operated. More security personnel and the rampant deployment of military working dogs were first used to check inside, around and beneath vehicles. At certain Middle Eastern locations, specific “search pits” were created for all cars and trucks to pull into and get searched more thoroughly.

Although significant strides in equipment and technology have taken place over the years to locate hidden explosives, I always felt better seeing a military working dog greeting everyone approaching a gate into a military base. For this dog lover, it was reassuring to see man’s best friend–wearing his own flak vest–doing a job as important, if not more, than mine.

The film “Max” begins in Afghanistan, where a Belgian Malinois military working dog is leading a small patrol with his U.S. Marine handler. My first up-close encounter with a Belgian Malinois, back in 2010, also took place in Afghanistan. I was running on a treadmill at a small fitness center named for a U.S. Navy SEAL killed in action nearly a decade earlier in that war-torn country. As my jog continued, I noticed the treadmill next to mine start up, followed by the sight of two paws and a blackened nose in my peripheral vision. I glanced over to my right and took a hard look; a Belgian Malinois ran for the next 25 minutes with his special operations handler using another treadmill on the other side of the dog. Yes, even military dogs need to stay in combat form in order to take the fight to the enemy. Needless to say, I was not surprised when the successful Osama bin Laden mission included a military working dog the following year.

Max

In only a few—way too few–insightful minutes, viewers of “Max” are introduced to war dogs and how they’ve been a vital part of our military history since World War I. The importance of Max, either to our U.S. arsenal or to his military handler, is never fully appreciated by–or vetted for–the audience’s benefit. With several hundred thousand dollars in training and years of experience to learn a special set of skills, Max returns home from the combat zone having to prove himself, and his allegiance, all over once again to doubters.

Max, the single movie character with the broader knowledge and senses to take care of himself and everyone else, unfortunately only gets minimal camera exposure to exhibit his under-appreciated talent. A perfect chance to educate and showcase one of our most respected and feared game-changers on the military battlefield lost upon viewers. Conversely, the movie elects to spotlight one bad apple posing as a U.S. Marine rather than embrace the warrior ethos of man’s best friend and the most cherished relationship in a brother/son’s life.

This movie, despite good intentions, is a missed opportunity in the end. Rather than focus squarely on a returning 4-legged war hero and the hundreds of lives he saved, this movie shuns, ignores and places misguided blame at the paws of one of our nation’s most loyal and dedicated military working dogs. Probably unnoticed by the moviegoers is the growing rift between the public’s perception of military service and the sacrifices made by those downrange–including our military working dog force. Most will lap up this dog story feeling it pays tribute to the K-9 corps while failing to fully understand the force multiplier spectrum these wonderful breeds bring to the fight. Our fight.

Grade: C+

‘MAX’ is rated PG for action violence, peril, brief language and some thematic elements.  Its running time is 1 hour and 51 minutes.

© 2015, Patrick. All rights reserved.



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