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Max (2002)



Average Rating: 6.4/10
Reviews Counted: 111
Fresh: 77 | Rotten: 34

Well-acted in the execution of its provocative "what-if?" premise.


Average Rating: 6.3/10
Critic Reviews: 28
Fresh: 20 | Rotten: 8

Well-acted in the execution of its provocative "what-if?" premise.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.3/5
User Ratings: 6,444

My Rating

Movie Info

In the wake of his rise to power, Adolf Hitler became known as perhaps the most villainous and destructive political leader of the 20th century. But what was he like before he formed the Nazi party? Screenwriter and director Menno Meyjes explores that question in this drama, a work of fiction keyed to the fact that Hitler unsuccessfully pursued a career as an artist following World War I. In 1918, Max Rothman (John Cusack) is a former artist who lost an arm during the war. While Max can no



Menno Meyjes

May 20, 2003


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All Critics (120) | Top Critics (32) | Fresh (77) | Rotten (34) | DVD (9)

The film is torn between playing [Taylor's] character for real and as a dangerous joke.

March 21, 2003 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
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Taylor, hawk-faced and gaunt, pours everything into his portrayal of Hitler, never once seeking our sympathy for this angry, homeless loner.

March 7, 2003
Seattle Times
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Offers a persuasive look at a defeated but defiant nation in flux.

February 28, 2003 Full Review Source: Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle
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If it's not a completely successful film, it is at the very least an intriguing effort to humanize the demon.

February 7, 2003
Detroit News
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Fascinating story from screenwriter- turned-director Menno Meyjes.

February 7, 2003
Washington Post
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Mad Max just sails off into nonsense.

February 7, 2003
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's a very philosophical film, with an interesting and somewhat fearless exploration of Hitler the man.

June 21, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Scouts
Film Scouts

Any film as provocative and nervy as this one is bound to generate controversy...

January 29, 2005 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Meyjes divides our attentions between the two major players, failing to take us far enough into either character's heart.

December 6, 2004 Full Review Source: Looking Closer
Looking Closer

Max is also an intimate portrait of modern art; of the birth of the expressionist movement and great artists. . .

June 5, 2003 Full Review Source:

a brave film, showing Hitler as a pathetic cog in a larger machine hurtling inevitably towards the Holocaust.

April 5, 2003 Full Review Source: Killer Movie Reviews
Killer Movie Reviews

I'd have thought it was impossible to overdo the role of Hitler, but Noah Taylor does just that in Max.

March 28, 2003 Full Review Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press
St. Paul Pioneer Press

Meyjes focuses too much on Max when he should be filling the screen with this tortured, dull artist and monster-in-the- making.

March 10, 2003 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

Max has precious little sting as a morality tale or punch as a parable about the relationship of art to politics.

March 6, 2003 Full Review Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

A fascinating and engrossing film.

March 4, 2003 Full Review Source: Premiere Magazine
Premiere Magazine

For all the food for thought offered by the film, its overall success is diminished by the fact that there's too much Max and not enough Hitler.

February 26, 2003
Creative Loafing

Max doesn't 'humanize' Hitler, but makes him frighteningly plausible as a dud artist who took revenge by twisting history into a personal, obscene project.

February 24, 2003 Full Review Source: San Diego Union-Tribune
San Diego Union-Tribune

Leaves us wondering less about its ideas and more about its characterization of Hitler and the contrived nature of its provocative conclusion.

February 22, 2003 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

A fascinating what-if portrayal of a time that was and events that might have been.

February 22, 2003 Full Review Source: San Diego Metropolitan
San Diego Metropolitan

Max pokes, provokes, takes expressionistic license and hits a far as art is concerned, it's mission accomplished.

February 17, 2003 Full Review Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Metro Times (Detroit, MI)

The drama depicts Hitler as passive and pathetic -- nearly, in a sense, letting him off the hook for his grotesque crimes.

February 14, 2003 Full Review Source: Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune

..A film that is entirely made up of foreshadowing, about this skinny, pale, portrait artist, before he would be the mad icon we think of him as today.

February 10, 2003 Full Review

It doesn't offer audiences any way of gripping what its point is, or even its attitude toward its subject.

February 8, 2003 Full Review Source:

Audience Reviews for Max

An art critic attempts to encourage a disturbing young man's art and dissuade him from pursuing political aspirations ... oh, and the young man is Hitler.
A colleague recommended I see this film because, in his words, "People criticized it for humanizing Hitler, but I thought that was one of its strengths." His point is that we so often dichotomize, see historical and political differences in clear terms of good and evil: the bad guys have the red light sabers and the good guys have the blue or green ones. His point, and I would argue the film's point, is that human beings, even the most depraved ones, are motivated by a myriad of influences, and dichotomies, by definition, are reductive.
The film presents Hitler in no gentle terms. He never smiles, but when you glimpse his teeth, they are nothing to behold, gray and misshapen. He screams a lot. He's remarkably insecure. The roots of his antisemitism are presented in no uncertain terms. He makes everyone around him uneasy. In the end, I would argue that the film didn't humanize him enough because the character, aside from his insecurity, is just as unlikable and impossible to identify with as you would expect. I'm not proposing that Hitler be portrayed in positive terms, quite the opposite. What I'm writing is this: here is a man who rose to power because something he said connected with people; he also was married. A humanizing portrait of him would get to the root of what his supporters saw in him even as we can whole-heartedly reject his ideology.
But it's a noble, risky, and controversial proposition to begin with, and I think it's admirable for Max to attempt to make us see the world in less myopic terms.
John Cusack is great as the Jewish art critic who attempts to take Hitler under his wing. The direction by Menno Meyjes is also quite strong, able to convey character and story in some single, beautifully framed shots.
Overall, Max is not a great film, but it's an interesting conversation-starter; questions like "Is our historical understanding narrow?" or "Is this film's attempt immoral/unethical?" are worth asking.
July 21, 2011
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Interesting but not great story about how Adolf Hitler's failed art career may have intercected with, and possibly actually inspired, his political career.

This film is in the style of Gods and Monsters, whereby a actual historiical figure's life is placed into a fictional setting as a means of trying to discover "what happened." John Cusack plays a fictional Jewish art dealer named Max Rothman who meets a 30-year old Hitler (Noah Taylor) in 1918, right after The Great War. Rothman is aware of Hitler's Anti-Semitism, but sees it as a source of artist inspiration rather than a actual threat. Rothman tries to convince Hitler to channel his rage into his paintings. In the process, the young Hitler discovers his true calling.

Cusack, who I normally adore, got good reviews for his potrayal here, but I just couldn't take him seriously as this haughty, somewhat pretentious art dealer. I guess I'm too used to him as Mr. Everyman. I guess the subplot of Rothman's love triangle between himself, his wife and his mistress fit in somewhere, but I found it unnecessary. Noah Taylor, while pulling off the passion of Hitler OK, seemed more to me as a Sid Vicious "sex, drugs and rock n roll" type rather than future leader of the Fatherland.

On the good side, the film looks great. The set design and costumes were excellent and believable, especially the abandoned train station where Rothman had his art gallery. And the edited-together scenes of Hitler giving a rabid speech about Jew and "pure blood" with Rothman and his family during a Jewish religious service were interesting.

The first few minutes of this film set up a mood for me that made me anticipate more than the film ultimately delivered. I may give Max another chance one day to see if I feel differently, but for now it's "good try but no cigar."
September 23, 2009

Super Reviewer

Cusack plays a Jewish art dealer who takes a young artist under his wing, by the name of Adolf Hitler. A compelling watch.
August 4, 2012

Super Reviewer

This is a fascinating look at rarely treaded territory...a chapter in the life of Adolf Hitler before his rise to power and European domination. This film focuses on a 30-year-old Hitler who has ambitions to become a successful artist, and is then taken under the arms of an amputee art dealer (played well by John Cusack), who befriends the socially awkward and ambitious Hitler as he develops his twisted political philosophies.

Some might be turned off by this movie because it really puts a human perspective on Hitler that many might be uncomfortable with, since people tend to think of him as this iconic monster with no humanity at all. But this film doesn't make any excuses for Hitler, it simply helps to show how such evil can be brewed up in someone, and puts his life in a historical and human perspective that is really quite interesting. It shows how both his experience in WWI, and his ambitions as an artist really echoed into his personality as a ruthless totalitarian.

Cusack plays a Jewish WWI veteran who has his own flaws, but at his core is a loving father and husband. The contrast between his personality, a genuinely kind-hearted working man, and Hitler's (Noah Taylor) is the most interesting aspect of the movie.

The film wasn't without its flaws. For one, I don't think it gave credit to how smart Hitler was. It portrays him as more of an emotional and insecure wreck, but it was Hitler's cunning and persuasiveness that really rocketed him to power. He was an intelligent and smooth talker, but it's hard to see those aspects in Taylor's portrayal of him. I also wasn't a fan of the ending, it was a bit anti-climactic.

But this film is definitely worth watching. Hitler is indeed a prime example of evil in human form, but regardless of that notion, the fact is that he is probably the most interesting historical figure of all time, and this story puts him in context with the rest of humanity and history, ultimately adding up to a very intriguing film.
October 28, 2007
Jared H

Super Reviewer

    1. Adolf Hitler: Politics is the new art.
    – Submitted by Frances H (13 months ago)
    1. Max Rothman: Words are magic. Sometimes I think the whole world is strung together by words.
    – Submitted by Frances H (13 months ago)
    1. Max Rothman: There's no future in the future.
    – Submitted by Frances H (13 months ago)
View all quotes (3)

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