Original release: June 26th, tadalafil 2015
Running time: 111 minutes
Director: Boaz Yakin
Writers: Sheldon Lettich, Boaz Yakin
Cast: Carlos, Josh Wiggins, Thomas Haden Church, Lauren Graham, Robbie Amell, Luke Kleintank
Anyone who has a dog can tell you how much your life changes once they arrive. I knew this before Chase came to live with us because I’ve lived with dogs before; once when I was little (with Gypsy), and later on as a twenty-something year old (with Looper). Plus, I’d known other dogs quite well. These dogs couldn’t be more different from each other and those experiences left me feeling pretty confident with the idea that I knew what to expect with a Belgian Malinois. I was so wrong.
Mals are unlike any other breed of dogs. The name, “malinois”, comes from Malines, the French name for the breed’s city of origin. They’re often compared to shepherds, but they’re a separate breed altogether. Their fur is a lot shorter, tails are less bushy and probably the most striking difference are their faces – characterized by a black mask of fur. They’re incredibly smart, sometimes very muscular, but they’re also extremely high maintenance and need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation for their active minds. Mals excel when they have jobs to do; they’re working dogs and make for great herders but are also pretty useful in law enforcement, security and the military. They’re fiercely protective and they never give up.
The lifestyle change when Chase came to live with us was huge. For starters he had to understand there was an order in our household, a hierarchy, and although he was our protector he was not at the top of that hierarchy. In time he learned how wait his turn and to stay out of the kitchen. He stuck to his own food and was never fed from the table. He learned commands in German and picked up so many words in English he could understand our sentences and infer a lot based on our tones, so much so that at times I’d have to resort to spelling out certain words so he wouldn’t know. His training was two-fold; mental and physical and we put him through a grueling routine from an early age to make sure he got the exercise and brain work he needed to become an agile and focused mal that even soldiers on the field would be impressed with. And all that work has resulted in a dog who’s the best buddy we could imagine having at our side.
When the film Max first came to my attention, I really couldn’t wait to see it. Aside from the television series Person Of Interest I’d rarely ever seen a mal on screen and from the poster he looked like Chase. The same coloured fur, the same stare, the same posture. The only thing that looked different was Max’s harness as Chase doesn’t wear one. So with all of that, I really wanted to see this dog’s story and know all about his adventures.
The film starts with Max in Afghanistan where he’s working with his handler Kyle (Robbie Amell) and quickly it’s established that these two share a very special bond. Meanwhile Kyle’s friend and fellow soldier Tyler (Luke Kleintank) is involved in selling weapons that were initially seized. When Kyle is questioned over the missing weapons he puts two and two together and warns his friend that he won’t cover for him. The two then go into the battlefield with their squad, with Max leading the way. While advancing on a suicide bomber, Max is injured by an explosion and in the ensuing gunfight, Kyle is shot and killed.
The story then takes us to America as Kyle’s family try to deal with the news of his death. Justin (Josh Wiggins) is Kyle’s younger brother who spends his time avoiding responsibilities, playing video games and selling illegal copies of them to his friends. With just one son left, his mother Pamela (Lauren Graham) and father Ray (Thomas Haden Church) are almost at their wits end to find a way to connect with him. At Kyle’s funeral Max is brought in to say goodbye and refuses to leave the fallen soldier’s coffin. It’s a heartbreaking scene as he howls and cries for him, but the dog quickly senses Justin connection to him. The marines, who so far had been struggling with the dog, realise he’s only calm when he’s around Justin, are keen to give him to the family as it would help him overcome his trauma, but it might also help them.
And so begins Max’s story of his friendship and adventure with Justin. Though the pair don’t hit it off initially. Justin is at first apprehensive and a little scared to handle the big fella and they have a few obstacles to face before that friendship really takes off. However, when Tyler re-enters the picture and Max makes it known that he doesn’t like him, Tyler uses the opportunity to convince Ray that the dog is unstable and needs to go. Tyler is just bad news and his dirty dealings continue to affect those around Justin and Max, but what can do to put an end to it?
Max was a thoroughly enjoyable film for me and it’s all because of the dog. In every scene he’s in my eyes were just glued to him. I completely identified with Justin’s character, especially in the scenes where he’s biking with Max running alongside him and when he tries to calm him during the fireworks. Surprisingly the film has quite a few dramatic turns as the story develops and that’s something I really didn’t expect. It’s a very patriotic film and that’s something that’s probably difficult to accept if you’re anti-war like I am, but it does go on to pay tribute to the dogs that work so heroically and tirelessly alongside the soldiers. I just always think though that animals should have no place in human wars and they shouldn’t have to give their lives due to the stupidity of another species.
That being said I have watched the film twice now and I’m sure I’ll revisit it again with Chase soon. Despite how I feel about animals in war, this is a beautiful and lovingly made film about an incredible breed of dog. It’s a family film that’s filled with action and drama and some really tense and emotional scenes that made me reach out for Chase’s paw as he was sitting next to me. So far it’s the only mal-centered film I know of but highlights quite well some of the things I mentioned earlier about this challenging breed and the lifestyle changes that come with them. But once you get through that with them, you’ll always have a friend.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .