Max (Blu-ray Review)

Max Blu-ray ReviewMax is a Belgian Malinois, a dog handled by U.S. Marines in Afghanistan.  After tragedy strikes, Max is sent back stateside to the Harne family and their son Tyler.  Although reluctant to take on the veteran canine, Tyler and Max ultimately for a familial bond.  The film received a wide release in the United States on June 26th, 2015.



Max bills itself as a tribute to dogs who serve in the U.S. military, a tradition that goes back to at least the 19th Century.  It’s a noble and perhaps too difficult a cause as presented in Max, as the material can’t handle elements like PTSD in the nearly as powerful a way as something like American Sniper.  The sentiment is there, but often slathered on far too thick, as when the final credits roll to a Blake Shelton cover of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young”.

Max actually shies away from its Afghanistan roots, instead opting to tell a clichéd tale of a boy and his dog, becoming like far too many family animal films of the past and leaving its most interesting element of a dog’s military service on the back burner.  Perhaps the filmmakers were afraid to take an angle some would view as too political, but by doing so they’ve made Max far too familiar.

The central conflict is too farfetched (pun intended) as Max and his owner Tyler have to deal with small town hoodlums and an ex-Marine who’s selling illegal arms across the border.  It makes for an odd story for a PG-rated family film, one that becomes harder and harder to digest as the film goes on, and ends in a surprisingly violent climax.  Max is a hero, no doubt, but there are much better ways to show it than in a third act where shootouts outdo sentiment.

The film’s best element is Thomas Haden Church, a far too underutilized actor after his Oscar-nominated turn in Sideways.  He presents a gruff side of living in a military family, but is ultimately the deliverer of the best lesson in the movie.  Church is mannered and effective, and it’s a bit of a shame that he isn’t being considered outside of this kind of normative family drama.

Max has its heart in the right place, in such a way that it may very well play better to general audiences than it will to film critics.  But the script could have used another polish, or maybe even less of a polish, given the routine nature of the plot.  There’s room in the movie business for throwback family fare, hearkening back to films like The Incredible Journey or Lassie Comes Home, but Max takes the elements that could have made for something different and unique and buries them out in the backyard.



The video transfer of Max is nicely done, showing off the clean nature of cinematographer Stefan Czapsky (Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood)

  • Encoding: AVC MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Clarity/Detail: Excellent, with close-ups and wider shots featuring plenty of terrific details in this encoding.
  • Depth: Depth and dimensionality is well on display.
  • Black Levels:  No issue; good shadow detail
  • Color Reproduction: Vivid color reproduction throughout, bright and clear.
  • Flesh Tones: The skin tones are all natural and authentic looking throughout.
  • Noise/Artifacts: Relatively little



Solid reproduction for disc here as well.

  • Audio Format(s): English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
  • Dynamics: Well balanced between clean audio and score tracks.
  • Low Frequency Extension: LFE is utilized to bring balance to the presentation.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Great usage here of scenes in Afghanistan as well as the forests of Tyler’s small town.
  • Dialogue Reproduction:  Spoken words were clear and intelligible.



Warner Brother’s and MGM’s Blu-ray contains a redemption code for an Ultraviolet Digital Download, and a DVD version of the film is included.  The DVD has the feature Working with Max, while the Blu-Ray contains the following extras:

  • Working with Max (1080p, 4:49): Details the six Belgian Malinois used to portray Max and trainer Mark Forbes, along with members of the cast and crew.
  • Hero Dogs: A Journey (1080p, 7:43):  A brief featurette on the usage of canines in combat.



The technical aspects of this Blu-ray are excellent, and those who enjoyed Max the first time around and are looking to pick this up for home viewing with be please with the specs on the disc, even though the special features are lacking.   Unfortunately, the film itself is much harder to recommend, given a paint-by-numbers plot and a busy finale.  There’s a story here that could be told well, but Max’s script seems to walk with its tail between its legs.


Max Arrives on Blu-ray

Nov. 3rd



Max Blu-ray Cover Art


Reviewer/Actor/Director/Screenwriter, former film critic for PBS' nationally televised series Just Seen It, and an MFA graduate of USC's School of Cinematic Arts. Favorite films include ROCKY, DIE HARD, GHOSTBUSTERS, THE GODFATHER, and television shows such as TWIN PEAKS, THE X-FILES, and THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

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