Just to be clear, we're talking about Max here, not Mad Max...
Max is a movie about a dog. It is sentimental, predictable, soppy tosh... and I loved every minute of it.
It tells the story of Max (played by Carlos), a short-haired Belgian Malinois who is especially trained for weapon detection by the US military, and Kyle Wincott (played by Robbie Ammell), a short-haired Southern Baptist, his handler.
I thought we were in for a story here about a dog in a war zone. (And the poster for the movie — "Best Friend, Hero, Marine" — cunningly plays up to this preconception.) But in fact Max takes a rather brilliant turn.
Kyle is promptly killed in an explosion (early in the movie, so this isn't really a spoiler), Max is traumatised by the incident ("Dogs can suffer PTSD, too") and is returned to the States where he is about to be destroyed, since he can no longer work, when Kyle's family steps in and rescues him.
What follows is a touching story of Max's recovery and reintegration, neatly parallelled by Kyle's brother Justin (Josh Wiggins) coming out of his shell, thanks to the dog. All this splendidly interwoven with a subplot about gun running which was adroitly set up back in the Afghanistan sequences.
The script is an excellent piece of work, beautifully constructed, with some deft, fresh, fun characterisation (notably Mia Xitlali as feisty Latina teen Carmen). It was written by director Boaz Yakin (who most recently co-wrote Now You See Me) and Sheldon Lettich (whose credits stretch back to Rambo III). They are clearly true professionals and did a great job.
In the course of the film lessons are learned, differences are reconciled, an emotionally shutdown father (Thomas Haden Church) reaches out to his son, a troubled teenager becomes integrated into society, a shellshocked dog recovers, bad guys are punished and the pure of heart triumph to live happily ever after...
It's a string of cheap, shopworn, emotionally manipulative clichés, and I just adored it. Highly recommended.
(Image credits: Posters are from Imp Awards.)