Max (2015): Boaz Yakin's touching but predictably simple story about man’s best friend

By Anirban Lahiri

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

Max, Movie Poster, Directed by Boaz Yakin
Max (2015) - By Boaz Yakin
Our Rating: 4.0
IMDb Ratings: 7.3
Genre: Adventure | Family
CastThomas Haden Church, Josh Wiggins, Luke Kleintank
Country: USA
Language: English
Runtime: 111 min
Color: Color

Summary: When Kyle Wincott is killed in the war, his war dog, Max, suffers from stress. Max is to be put down because he has trouble listening to anyone else, until he meets Justin, Kyle's brother. Justin adopts and saves Max. Then both of their lives will never be the same again.

Do you have a dog? Have you ever pet a dog, or any other animal, in childhood? Yes to either of these, and Max is a film for you.

Max is the story of a dog, a Belgian Malinois, trained in the US Marine, to help soldiers at the battlefield. Stalled in battle-strewn Afghanistan, Max sees its handler and best friend, US Marine Kyle Wincott, get killed in an encounter. The dog probably thinks it was its own fault not to warn Kyle in advance. Victim to a post-traumatic stress, Max is unable to function anymore in the marine.

The Marines want to exterminate it. As a last resort, they inform Kyle’s parents. Max’s inner turmoil goes down when it sees Justine, Kyle’s younger brother – a spoilt brat who makes some extra money ripping video games. Max finds a close to kin in Justin, though Justin is not so sure.

A Still from Max, Directed by Boaz Yakin
A Still from Max
The story is predictably simple. The Belgian shepherd’s dog’s psychology is well explored. The camera and cuts are classical – there is a neoclassical feel in the narration. Through small dollops of conflicts, Kyle’s family, especially Justin, accepts Max as member. But, Kyle’s father, Ray Wincott, Ex-Marine-officer suspects that Max is responsible for Kyle’s death. 

Max would appeal to kids in their teenage, and to all animal lovers at large. The film voices an important concern through the character of a suspended US Marine officer, Tyler. It is not the arms dealers who are the main culprits, he says. These dealers are just minions, puppets in the hands of arms manufacturer. This slip-of-tongue in American cinema refers to bankers and families, such as Rothschild, that fund war, and sell arms to both the warring sides, making huge profit and keeping power to the ruling section, at the cost of million human lives.

Justin with Max, Directed by Boaz Yakin
Justin with Max
The subtexts of teen-age romance and familial reconciliation, which connects to the Max story, as a teenager’s coming-of-age journey are handled well. When Justin’s new-found crush, Carmen, teaches him how to handle dogs, especially Shepherd dogs, she subtly hints at how to date a girl. The idea of reward and leading the line are applicable to both. Picking two different behavioural traits and connecting them together through the same human instinct is a good game this film plays.

Carlos, the Belgian shepherd dog, etched out the sensitive core of the character pretty well. Josh Wiggins as Justin is okay. The other characters in the film are flat or fragmented.

A Still from Max, Directed by Boaz Yakin
A Still from Max
Max, the film, is about relationship. Like a fable, it shows how to cross life’s hurdles and grow up through building relations. It has been decades since serious dog films like Rin Tin Tin or Lassie featured in theatres. Thanks to Warner Bros and MGM, the studios behind the Rin Tin Tin and the Lassie films, to bring the genre back.  In Today’s net age, man’s best friend may come back in more films to give us a break from sex, lies and violence.

The film has made a commendable business of $25.349m worldwide so far, with a gross of $12.155m in the home market in the opening weekend. It is ranked 4th in the domestic theatres, behind Jurassic World, Inside Out and Ted 2.

Verdict: Good for one-time watch.

About Author - 

Anirban is a Cinematographer and film teacher. After a marathon teaching of filmmaking for five years in Digital Academy, Mumbai, he is busy writing his own film now. He was with DearCinema during its first phase. Steeped in cultural theory, observation and history, he sees all his work as part of a continuum – critique. Anirban consciously plays the role of a critic while shooting films, teaching, writing stories, and of course while critiquing. His favourite filmmakers are Sergei Eisenstein, Orson Welles, Jean-Luc Godard, Ritwik Ghatak, Satyaji Ray, Luis Buñuel, Andrei Tarkovsky, Abbas Kiarostami and Nagisa Oshima, to name a few.

Readers, please feel free to share your views/opinions in the comment box below. As always your feedback is highly appreciated!  


Max (2015) Trailer (YouTube)

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