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Johnny Mad Dog Reviews

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Super Reviewer

March 20, 2010
Powerful insight into the psyche of child soldiers with a mesmerising central performance and a real driving energy but shrouded in the darkness of the subject material.
December 7, 2008
The subject is quite original, the whole film is totally exotic (AK-wielding toddlers, jujus, unknown locations, etc). But what makes the interest at first of the movie quickly asphyxiate it. There is virtually no efforts to build up characters and what could potentially look like a storyline. I mean 14 years old killers make for a gripping start but they can't replace imagination and intelligence. I learned virtually nothing in this film, my understanding of Africa, or of human nature for that matter has not increased a bit. I had the distinct feelng that this film was nothing else but the disturbing pictures of Africa's civil wars suddenly set in motion.
June 7, 2012
It's a scramble of destruction and inhumanity, but it shows what state these child soldiers have to get their minds into in order to kill at will. The haphazard way of filming emphasises the reality of war. It's messy, it isn't a clear picture, it is brutal and leaves you trying to catch a breath and catch up with what is happening. The unnamed African country seems to be Liberia, but so easily could be Ivory Coast, Uganda, Congo or similar.
March 25, 2012
Hard movie to digest.
December 5, 2011
It puts you directly in the front lines of destroying our child like innocence and finding redemption.
James Baxter
July 15, 2011
this looks really cool
March 30, 2011
Cannot recommend this enough. Brutal and beautiful all at the same time.
January 19, 2011
"May his sould rest in perfect peace!"
Parker M.
February 1, 2011
2.5 Stars out of 4

If there's any magic in cinema, it is making us feel emotions we wish to never comprehend. Another tactic is to make us root for the bad guys. That is why I love Scorsese and think he is a genius.

If you put that task into French/Liberian director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire, you have an adequate film that disturbed me to the point that he needed to bring some merit to the screen. Johnny Mad Dog is based on a book by Congolese author Emmanuel Dongala. The film version is "brutally honest." I must put that in quotes, because the film is well-aware of just how disturbing it plans to get.

This film shook me, scared me, but did not inform or interest me. It told me nothing new about the Second Liberian War, inasmuch youth fighters in Africa. We understand the maliciousness of making a young boy wield an AK-47 and the absurdity of providing them cocaine and telling them: "You don't wanna die; don't be born!" - as their General Never Die (Joseph Duo) enunciates in fiery. What I wish Johnny Mad Dog did was challenge me in ways that extend past violence and chaos. This film has no dissent and no argument. But it is "brutally honest."

The group of nefarious fighters are equals: young, oddly dressed, and peculiarly named. These are anonymous actors so do not expect Brad Pitt to save the day. Some names involve Small Butterfly, No Good Advice, Take It Free. Then there is Johnny Mad Dog, played by Christophe Minie. The problem is he is such an incorrigible, terrible, and uninteresting protagonist (or antagonist?). He is a bad person. Well, he may have once been good, but the war has poisoned his ideology. But I did not learn that from the movie.

This movie loves to suggest. I love suggestion; it is a theatre tactic that, if used right in cinema, can be the most powerful tool. Here, there is so much suggestion about its context that we get nothing complex to learn. Everything is facile and suggested as if taken from the headlines. There are UN soldiers in Africa trying to placate the rebels. There are 'Dogos', alliances with the president, who are being alienated and killed by the rebels - the side of Johnny Mad Dog. We get many scenes of these - they are "brutally honest" - but in a way that is only violent and repulsive. Never compelling.

I wanted more on these soldiers' code, why they wear butterfly costumes and cross-dress in wedding gowns. Is this their bridge between youth (dressing up) and being caricatures they are not? Is their dressing up a paradox for their loss of individuality? I never got this. Instead I received a shocking film that moved me, but for reasons clearly and more profoundly expressed in Hotel Rwanda. See that.

You could maybe see this. These are great performances by these children (some were actually youth freedom fighters), who have such feral evil in them that we want to sympathize but cannot. They do such terrible things that they are lions now not cubs. Johnny Mad Dog is the leader of this madness, and I was never sure why he is so important. The film never makes clear why Mad Dog's contempt is fascinating.

We do get a shadow of greatness near the end. A girl enters the picture. She lost her brother to the soldiers when he ran from them and got shot. She confronts Johnny Mad Dog's ego at the end in an excellent exchange of dialogue, which, since it is conveyed by children, delivers an innocence and naiveness to it. This was powerful, but the rest of the film goes through other characters I found more intriguing. But they were ultimately accosted by the youth soldiers. I'd like to see a film about them next time.

So I was left cold. But this is not a bad movie. It is "brutally honest." I've said this phrase so many times, you probably want to tear your hair out by now. You should. You will get this feeling if you watch Johnny Mad Dog - a potentially great film in its embryonic stage.
August 21, 2010
It?s a crazy world for 15-year-old Johnny Mad Dog and his teenaged pals. In Johnny?s world, he doesn?t worry about asking girls out -- he simply kidnaps or rapes them. When Johnny and the boys meet someone they don?t like, there are no fisticuffs; they have an Uzi to take care of the problem. And if an older couple tries to reason with them, well, the boys can just force them to strip and then demand: ?You?ll fuck your wife, right now, in the living room ? fuck for me now!? It?s a boy?s life, indeed.

"Johnny Mad Dog," with its band of vicious young males, will put some viewers in mind of "A Clockwork Orange," but director Jean-Stephane Sauvaire?s documentary-style film is more horrific because it?s not set in the future; it is fact-based and happening right now. (Depending on which source you consult, events are based either on Liberia or the Congo Republic.) This hypnotic horror-show demonstrates what happens when children are recruited to fight adult wars.

We follow Johnny (Christopher Minie) and his militia as they make their way toward the capital of their country, terrorizing anyone who crosses their path. It?s a mesmerizing march, and these kids resemble a road show from hell: One guy wears a white wedding dress; another sports gauzy, white angel wings. These boys don?t worry about anyone dissing their fashion choices.

But between bouts of carnage, Sauvaire reminds us that these thugs are, despite everything, still boys. A kid nicknamed No Good Advice, whose behavior has been monstrous, is reduced to tears when his ?pet? pig is slaughtered for a meal. Johnny, whose idea of socializing with the opposite sex is rape, is devastated when a girl he likes is murdered. Turns out Johnny and the boys aren?t just monsters, but victims themselves.

It?s ironic that this week?s Hollywood box-office champ is "The Expendables," Sly Stallone?s latest comic-book version of violence on film. At one point in "Mad Dog," Johnny picks up an Uzi and explains its function to his comrades: ?Chuck Norris used it in 'Delta Force,'? he says. ?So be careful! The Israelis or Chuck Norris might be around.? Norris and Stallone movies are filled with senseless violence. So is "Johnny Mad Dog," but that?s where any similarities end.
When Jokers Attack
January 12, 2010
Powerful and brutal film that not alot of people seem to know about. Tells it as it is, However I think Johnny Mad Dog could have been such a better film if us viewers had back story and character development. Instead it didn't over any of that and jumped right into violence and war.
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