Top Dog

1995 Directed by Aaron Norris. Starring Chuck Norris, Erik Von Detten, Michele Lamar Richards, Carmine Caridi, Herta Ware, Clyde Kusatsu, Reno.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 5, 1995

Talk about your bad timing… Top Dog chases after balls that turn out to be grenades. Karate kicker and action star Chuck Norris here plays an ace San Diego cop with a bad attitude who is partnered with a dog named Reno, an extraordinary pooch in the force's K9 division. Reno, although a certifiable hero (we get to witness his rescue of a baby from a burning building -- how's that for originality?), also has an attitude problem (he's been cited numerous times for disobeying direct orders). Top Dog also reteams the Norris brothers, Chuck and Aaron, who have been frequent collaborators through the years. Obviously, the two are trying to recapture some of the financial success of their other recent “PG” outing, Sidekicks. But I'm afraid that pairing Chuck Norris with a cute canine is not sufficient enough of a gesture to make this a movie appropriate for children. Furthermore, it's another one of those movies that sports that questionable “PG” morality that nixes all sexual possibilities but pulls out the stops on images of explosions, violence, and mayhem. People in these movies also have the good taste to not bleed profusely when shot and to lick their wounds offscreen. Top Dog also irresponsibly feeds us at least a couple scenes of illegal police searches presented as normal procedure. The one time he asks for a search warrant, it doesn't come through but that hardly stops Norris from searching the scums' premises anyway. And if I heard correctly, the movie cites the wrong date for Hitler's death. (Trust me, it's not worth explaining exactly how that information fits into the plot.) Suffice it to say that I do not think Top Dog is healthy for children… or other living beings. But Top Dog will die from causes totally unrelated to morally justifiable reasons. It goes back to the bad timing issue. You see, the bad guys here are radical white supremacists who blow up buildings and people as political statements. The movie, in fact, opens with a gigantic bomb explosion that devastates a building. This release, arriving so close on the heels of the Oklahoma City bombing, can't help but appear like a pale and tasteless imitation. The nation has become pained witnesses to the fact that the reality of such occurrences is nothing like how it's portrayed in the movies. In the current climate, Top Dog has no chance of finding a popular audience. Too bad; I'd rather have it rejected on the grounds that Top Dog bites.

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Top Dog, Aaron Norris, Chuck Norris, Erik Von Detten, Michele Lamar Richards, Carmine Caridi, Herta Ware, Clyde Kusatsu, Reno

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