‘ Max’s’ ca­nine star stands out

Los Angeles Times - - MOVIES - — Katie Walsh

Co- writer and di­rec­tor Boaz Yakin’s “Max” pulls the Lassie story out of the 1950s and plants it squarely in post- 9/ 11 Amer­ica.

Marine Kyle Wincott ( Rob­bie Amell) is a spe­cial­ist work­ing in the Mid­dle East with Max, a Ger­man shep­herd sniff­ing out weapons caches and other threats. When Kyle dies at­tempt­ing to res­cue Max in a fire­fight, the dog is so badly trau­ma­tized that he is un- able to be han­dled by any­one — ex­cept Kyle’s teenage brother, brood­ing gamer Justin ( Josh Wiggins).

As the two bond, Justin dis­cov­ers that Kyle’s Marine buddy Tyler ( Luke Klein­tank) is ly­ing about Max’s role in Kyle’s death to cover up his own cow­ardice, and Tyler has got­ten him­self into shady illegal arms deals.

It might seem as though “Max” got its premise from heart­string- tug­ging YouTube videos of dogs at Army fu­ner­als, but the film is bet­ter than one might as­sume. A re­strained per­for­mance from Wiggins keeps it from dip­ping too far into sen­ti­men­tal­ity, tem­per­ing the Rock­well- es­que car­i­ca­tures of his par­ents, played by Thomas Haden Church and Lau­ren Graham.

Graham’s sharp wit is wasted on a role that is es­sen­tially ma­ter­nal wall­pa­per. The per­for­mance of Car­los as Max, how­ever, is wor­thy of men­tion, as the dog com­pellingly con­veys dif­fer­ent emo­tions. There are le­git­i­mately nail- bit­ing ac­tion se­quences and do­gon- dog com­bat fight scenes.

“Max” is a big slice of pa­tri­otic, down- the- mid­dle genre fare, but it man­ages to work — and jerk a few tears along the way. “Max.” MPAA rat­ing: PG for ac­tion vi­o­lence, peril, brief lan­guage, the­matic el- ements. Run­ning time: 1 hour, 51 min­utes. Play­ing: In gen­eral re­lease.

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