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Stars: Josh Wiggins, Thomas Haden Church, Laurel Graham, Mia Xitlali, Luke Kleintank, Robbie Amell, Dejon LaQuake

Director: Boaz Yakin

A doggy action pic that will please those younger viewers prepared to stay its rather long course. The opening sequences in Afghanistan are possibly the best, as Max, a Belgian malinois (similar to Alsatian) sniffer dog, steers his platoon clear of bombs and other dangers.

On their last patrol, his handler Kyle Wincott (Amell) senses Max is asking them to stay back, but his best friend Tyler (Kleintank), who has a secret black market going in guns, urges them forward. Result: Kyle is killed, and a traumatised Max, now mad at the world but fearful of explosions and loud noises, ends up with the grieving Wincotts, most notably their alienated younger son Justin (Wiggins), who's closer to his video games than he is to his parents.

Naturally Max bonds with Justin, who also finds himself a girlfriend in dog-friendly Latina Carmen (Xitlali); but happy-ever-after is soon threatened by the reappearance of Tyler, who takes a job with Justin's dad (Church) and is clearly a major snake in the grass.

But you can't understand who Justin doesn't just tell his parents when, thanks to Max's sniffer instincts, he sees Tyler and some local ne'er-do-wells brokering what looks like an illegal arms deal.

Way back when the movies were young, Alsatian hero Rin Tin Tin did all his own stunts, but here it takes six different dogs to bring Max's exploits to life, as he tries to protect his new family from imminent extinction. The acting isn't all that great, with newcomer Xitlali and Amell (from The Duff and in the film all too briefly) as honourable exceptions.

David Quinlan

USA 2015. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour by deluxe.
111 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 05 Aug 2015