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Shawn

Top Dog

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Posted by Shawn on August 22, 2007
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Top Dog is a 1995 movie starring Chuck Norris. A movie in the sense that thousands of images are flashed at us, creating the illusion of movement. Because by the film industry's standards, Top Dog is less cohesive than a child's crudely drawn animation flipbook.

Licensed for action Licensed for action

Top Dog doesn't necessarily fail because of what it does, it fails because of what it tries to do. Top Dog is labeled as a 'family-friendly action thriller.' The plot is contrived, the action sequences are ridiculously unnecessary, and the subject matter is as far from family-friendly as you can get. Chuck and his dog Reno must undercover and bust an underground Neo-Nazi hate movement, and stop them from killing in the name of white power. If that wasn't bad enough, we often see the bad guys end up comedic 'home alone' style situations, whereas the good guys usually suffer bullet wounds to the face. What?

I know this is a "review", but I'm going to get pretty in-depth here, so beware of spoilers. Sorry, there's just too much that needs to be discussed when it comes to this cinematic train-wreck. Let's be honest, you weren't going to watch this movie anyway.

After the intro credits, Top Dog begins with an engaging rescue sequence. An apartment is on fire, and there's a baby trapped inside! The local firefighters must not have received training on such a far-fetched scenario, so it's up to Top Dog (Reno) to save the day. As Reno runs through the building, you'll notice that the perils he faces are all arranged in a 'dog obstacle course' fashion. No wonder the firefighers couldn't do it. As Reno races through the house we hear stock sound effects of a baby crying, because let's be honest- With the roaring fire and smoke, you wouldn't be hearing a damn thing. Oh, but Reno does. Soon enough Reno emerges from the house with what looks like a bag of coal wrapped in a towel. It's the baby of course, but they never actually try to explain how Reno managed to get the baby out of its crib, wrap it in a blanket, and safely escort it out of the house.

Just tricky enough for a movie dog! Just tricky enough for a movie dog!
No explanation needed No explanation needed

After this sequence, I knew I was in for something special.

While things are wrapping up at the scene, Reno's owner notices two suspiscious looking men walking away from the building. They follow them to a dock, and decide to come back the next night to investigate. Upon arrival, they find a ship loaded with weapons and C4, enough to 'take out the town.' Unfortunately they are discovered by the bad guys, and are shot. That's right, both Reno and his owner are shot, and thrown overboard. The old cop dies, naturally, but moments later Reno is shown swimming to safety. Note that they never show where Reno got shot at. Nor do they come up with a plausible explanation of how he: survived the shot, didn't drown, made it to safety, was found by the police force, and returned to work the next day. Now how are we going to further this already shaky plotline?

Cue Chuck Norris

We're introduced to Chuck in his shoddy, unkepmt house, sleeping in one morning while the telephone rings in the background. Chuck doesn't want to get the phone, because it's in the kitchen. That's fine, but for some reason the phone is plugged in in the bedroom. Just the perfect thing to allow a badly scripted comedic scene in which Chuck pulls his phone all the way through the house by its wire, so he can answer it 20 rings later. Does it make sense? No. Is it funny? Nope. Does it add value to this movie? Yes.

I'll spare you some pain and fast forward a little bit. Chuck, the renegade 'I work alone' cop who was kicked off the force, is now apparently the only man who can join Reno and take up the case. What's that? Chuck likes to work alone but is now paired with a police dog? How hilariously ironic! I sure hope this doesn't lead to any cute situations involving physical comedy. Chuck then uses some ace detective work to figure out that the Neo-Nazi regime is behind all of this, and they soon discover that Chuck is on their trail. Time for them to pay Chuck a visit.

Chuck's not gonna work with that 'damn dog' Chuck's not gonna work with that 'damn dog'
Detective work in action Detective work in action

The Nazis arrive at Chuck's house, disguised as... circus clowns! I'll explain why in a second. First though, we're treated to a drawn-out action sequence in which Chuck and his token female cop associate battle the Nazi-clowns. As you would expect, their poor firearm skills are no match for Chuck's roundhouse kicks. The clowns are dispatched one by one, until the final clown decides to get in a car and drive towards Chuck. This next scene is so ridiculous, so far-fetched, and so unrealistic that I couldn't help but explode into a fit of laughter, and rewind it several times to make sure I saw it correctly. As the car speeds at Chuck, he takes careful aim and shoots out the car's front left tire. Ok, that's unlikely, but I'm still following. However, it loses control, swerves into, and ramps the back of a parked car, which explodes. Not a little explosion, but a masive, pyrotechnics-induced, flaming enigma of an explosion. You really have to watch the video to understand. Because when you watch, it's very apparent that the explosion comes from the middle of the parked car, something that by all laws of physics and logic, is completely impossible. Oh, and the clown thing? That's because when the last clown climbs out of the car (don't worry, he survived), Chuck gets to point his gun at him and deliver the shattering one-liner, "You're under arrest, BOZO." Get it? He was dressed as a CLOWN!

Never hit a parked car Never hit a parked car
Sigh... Sigh...

Meanwhile, to lighten the mood a little, Reno's actual owner (the grandson of the cop that got killed in the beginning) takes him out to a dog show. Believe it or not, that crazy Reno actually manages to sneak into the judging area and steal first place! How did Reno get it? Why did no-one notice? What happened to the dog that actually won first place? Get used to questions like these. To avoid being caught, the kid quickly disguises him in a funny outfit. This outfit wasn't 'cool enough' though, so he takes the time to dress him in several more. What purpose did this serve? Where did the zany hats come from? Why... ah... hell with it. More on this later.

Chuck knows the Nazis are going to strike soon, he just doesn't know where or when. Don't worry, Chuck's mom is on the case. She reminds that tomorrow is Hitler's birthday (April 20). Chuck tells the police chief to round up all the 'racist scumbags' in the area for questioning. In case you were wondering, you can't actually arrest people for looking like racists. Don't tell that to Top Dog though.

Shortly after, Chuck gets a lead on an evil Nazi warehouse. I'm sure there was some reason given as to how he found it, but I don't really remember or care. Trust me, menial plot details don't matter when you're watching Top Dog. Later that night, with no search warrant in hand, Chuck breaks into the warehouse and takes Reno along. Backup officers wait outside. It is while inside the warehouse that Chuck and Reno make their breakthrough discovery- the Nazi Day-Planner! Lying in a random desk in the warehouse, is a guide showing pictures of where the Nazis are going to strike next. As Chuck and Reno try and sneak out though, they get caught by the Nazis. I guess the Nazis stay up all night in their Nazi warehouse, talking about how much they hate minorities. Surrounded by bad guys, Chuck only has one choice. He gets out the Nazi Day-Planner, gives it to Reno, and tells him to run. He really doesn't even do it that quickly. The flunkies however, are completely dumbfounded by this as they watch Reno run away. It's not until the Nazi Ringleader tells them to 'get that dog!' that a couple of them run after Reno and the rest fight Chuck.

Wait, what happened to the backup cops? Oh, they got shot in the face outside. That's right baby, point-blank, execution style. Hey, remember that scene at the dog show? When your child is crying, disturbed by the thought of two good guys getting bullets to the head, remind them of the silly good times when Reno won the dog show and tried on funny hats to escape. Family-friendly.

This is what happens to the good guys This is what happens to the good guys
This is what happens to the bad guys This is what happens to the bad guys
And this is what makes it allllll ok And this is what makes it allllll ok

Back in the warehouse, Chuck fights the group of baddies one at time, while the others stand in the back and shift around in menacing fighting stances. Well, sometimes they don't even manage that. Finally Chuck gets captured and tied up. Reno, on the other hand, is busy fighting bad guys himself and subduing them in comical 'Home Alone' style moments. Dropping crates of packing peanuts on them, launching them into mucky water with a catapault, the stuff that police dogs usually do. Reno takes care of the bad guys, rescues Chuck, etc. and so on, and then they escape.

Thanks to the Day-Planner, Chuck knows that the Nazis are going to strike at the pro-unity rally that's happening today. I'm not sure what's worse- a unity rally on Hitler's birthday, or the fact that all of this was completely overlooked by Chuck and the entire police force. Regardless, Chuck rounds up the troops and heads off to the rally. The kid that owns Reno catches word of this on the police scanner, and starts biking toward there rally himself.

At the rally, we can see that some of the baddies snuck in and grabbed spots on the staff to co-ordinate their attack. Nevermind the fact that one of them has "HATE" tatooed on their hand. They must have thought he HATED racism. When Chuck arrives at the scene they scramble, and start rushing the attack. All of the pro-unity representatives (one being the pope, I guess) are ushered into their limousine. Oh no, it turns out the Nazis planted a bomb under the limo! Chuck gets under the limo to check it out, but is faced with a dillema: should he cut the blue or red wire?? Even the Nazis, in their most triumphant moments of planning, forgot one thing: all bombs can be defused by cutting a red or blue wire! Chuck picks the right wire of course, and everything is cool. For some reason though, one of the Nazis thought it would be a good idea to stick around and watch Chuck take care of the bomb. Chuck chases him to a random wooded area of the park, for a final confrontation. Chuck quickly dispatches him with a flurry of well-placed kicks. 'Son of a bitch!' exclaims the bad guy. 'My mom wouldn't like that' says Chuck, who then seals the deal with a brutal double-roundhouse kick. Just in time for the boy to arrive, who has spent ten minutes worth of movie time spread over eight scenes biking to the rally. Well, he was supposed to bike to the rally but for some reason ends up in the random location that Chuck chased the Nazi to. Just so he can hear the Nazi admit, "I'm the one that killed your grandfather." Very Meaningful.

With the Nazis extinct, we have just enough time for a classic 'feel good' ending. Everyone is safe, the kid has closure, the police commisioner's campaign for mayor will be a success, and Chuck has learned how to work with a partner. And for a final, farewell kick to the nuts, Reno grabs the pope's pope scarf and runs away with it. Uh-oh! Roll those credits.

'My mom wouldn't like that.' Or anything in this movie, for that matter 'My mom wouldn't like that.' Or anything in this movie, for that matter
Oh Reno! Oh Reno!

That, ladies and gentlemen, concludes my extensive review of 'Top Dog.' It's every cliché you could think of from a cop movie, mixed with every cliché you could think of from an animal movie, mixed together with a terrible storyline and a confused identity- trying to figure out if it wants to be kid-friendly or edgy. Only when you add Chuck Norris to a script this bad will you end up with something special like 'Top Dog.' So by all means, rent this and enjoy it for yourself. You just might not regret it.


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