Johnny Mad Dog

"Excellent"

Johnny Mad Dog Review


Harrowing, violent and deeply disturbing, this realistic drama about children fighting in Liberia's grisly civil war (1999-2003) is not only a strong story, but it has wide resonance as a look at young people living without limits.

Mad Dog (Minie) is the 15-year-old commander of a group of boy soldiers, all stolen from their families and turned into ruthless killers by the age of 10.

Operating in a world with no moral centre, they rape and pillage their way through the country challenging everyone with big guns and macho posturing, including the UN peacekeeping force. Mad Dog is also on a collision course with 16-year-old Laokole (Vandy), who has lost her little brother and is trying to get help for her wounded father.

Filmmaker Sauvaire tells this story with doc-style urgency, and the mainly non-actors in the cast are eerily realistic. Most have firsthand memories of these events, and yet they dive in with gusto to create characters who are seriously terrifying, all while adding telling touches of humour and yearning childishness. As these boys go on a rampage through their society, they clearly think their weapons and pack mentality make them invincible.

And of course the scariest thing is the Lord of the Flies angle: is this how young boys anywhere in the world would behave without any rules? In other words, in addition to revealing a staggering chapter of history, this film has something important to say about human nature. And it's also telling that they excuse this viciousness because they're "bringing freedom to our people", while their chanting echoes American movies and videogames, including their "no die, no rest" mantra.

This is a deeply authentic and electrically charged film. It's loud and violent, restless and relentless in its grim depiction of a previously civilised society in freefall. It's also shot on a remarkably large scale, with crowds of people adding a believable backdrop to the compelling drama at the centre. And it's so strong that it kind of earns its few heavy-handed moments (such as a Martin Luther King speech on the radio). In the end, it's painful to see what this war has done to a once-promising country. And an entire generation of children.



Johnny Mad Dog

Facts and Figures

Run time: 98 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 26th November 2008

Distributed by: MNP Entreprise

Production compaines: Lunar Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 19 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: Benoit Jaubert,

Starring: as Johnny Mad Dog, as Laokole, Dagbeh Tweh as No Good Advice, Barry Chernoh as Small Devil

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