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Man's Best Friend Reviews

Ally Sheedy plays a TV reporter who saves a bull mastiff from a vivisection lab, unaware that he's no ordinary dog, in this uneven low-budget thriller from one of the creators of the CHILD'S PLAY series. A lifestyle reporter bucking for meatier assignments, Lori Tanner (Sheedy) follows up a tip from a disgruntled lab worker that animals are being abused in dubious service of science. When the worker fails to show up for a rendezvous, Tanner and her trusty cameraperson (Trula M. Marcus) sneak into the lab after discovering a dog carcass in the lab's dumpster. What they don't yet know is that the dog was killed after it escaped and killed the lab worker Tanner had arranged to meet. Inside, they discover the worker's accusations to be true. The lab is full of hideously maimed animals, and while being chased by a security guard, they inadvertently liberate a bull mastiff, Max, who immediately bonds with Lori. Lori in turn bonds with Max after he chases off a mugger in a convenience store parking lot. What she doesn't see is that the dog literally ripped out the would-be mugger's throat before retrieving Lori's purse. Conflict ensues when Lori's boyfriend Perry (Fredric Lehne) objects to Max. Max retaliates by biting through the brake lines on Perry's car. When that fails to eliminate Perry as a competitor for Lori's attentions, Max attacks Perry and sprays his face with acid urine. Max's other peculiarities include the ability to climb trees to catch cats, which he swallows whole. Max's mad-doctor creator and owner of the lab, Jarret (Lance Henriksen), enlists the help of local cops in finding Max. He explains that Max is a genetic blending of predatory and survival traits borrowed from other animals who could go off like a canine A-bomb once a heavy sedative used to keep him under control wears off. Max is finally captured and destroyed, but not before inflicting more mayhem, including taking a bite out of a tender part of the abusive junkyard owner (William Sanderson) who adopts Max from Lori. Max also finds the time to romance a neighborhood collie, whose litter lays the groundwork for a potential sequel. A triumph of dog training, makeup, and special effects, Max is pretty much the whole show in this otherwise indifferent shocker, written and directed by CHILD'S PLAY 2 director John Lafia. In the style of sci-fi alarmist thrillers from the 1950s, FRIEND tries to peg its paranoia on scientific advances of questionable value, in this case gene splicing and its potential abuse. Bringing more talent to bear than this enterprise deserves, Sheedy generates a few early laughs as a typically bubbleheaded TV hairdo with a microphone, making a foray into investigative journalism with all the grit she might bring to a shoe sale at Bullock's. But once Max starts rampaging, Sheedy becomes little more than generically earnest window dressing. Henriksen fares even worse at the hands of Lafia's hamhanded script, which reduces the actor to breathing life into one of the most boring mad scientists in the annals of weird science cinema. Though Max himself is an irrepressible scene-stealer, the special effects meant to make him scary are too often undermined by the pinched budget. Formulaic without being much fun, MAN'S BEST FRIEND really is a dog. (Violence, profanity.)