Top Dog - 1995
Top Dog is a movie about a dog that loses his partner and gets a new partner in Chuck Norris. I don’t think this movie needs a big introduction.
A lot of information can be gained from the font choices made for the opening credits… and this movie lets you know they had money to burn. It is by far the most original looking font I have ever seen. While admiring I noticed that Ron freaking Swanson wrote the screenplay. They never mentioned this during Parks and Rec. And Aaron Norris directed this movie. Wait, THE Aaron Norris? The man that is buried under the biggest shadow ever cast by a big brother, Chuck Norris? Alright let’s get into this, I bet it can be something.
The job of any screenwriter worth two cents is to help the audience connect with the hero of the movie and understand what to expect from him. During the opening sequence, we see Reno the dog eats a donut (I know I do), tear up a scarf (I mean who hasn’t?) and run into a burning building to save a baby (now that’s a hero). His partner is killed and he is left for dead, I think. I mean, he gets shot and they never show his wounds or his recovery time. Never mind all that because the audience is now 100% on board with the hero and his path of revenge.
Chuck Norris is playing against type in this bold career move as a drunk, suspended police officer. Normally Norris is pure perfection like in real life, but this time around he drinks and has an attitude. So, where does Norris fit into this story? Reno needs a new partner and who better than the baddest man on the planet? Safe to say their first meeting doesn’t go as planned, both trying to play top dog in the relationship and I must say I’m beyond impressed Reno held his own against Norris. I guess we know who is top… dog.
I picked this movie solely based on the poster. I mean it’s a huge badge with Norris and a dog photoshopped on it. Along with that picture we have the tagline “They’re licensed for action!”. Once I started watching the movie, it got too real way too fast. The bad guys turned out to be white supremacist Neo-Nazis, invoking the rise of the white race and spewing hate speech. Who would’ve thought a Norris buddy cop movie with a dog would be so topical 22 years later?
But hey the dog ate Norris chicken and told him to eat his dog food, Comedy!
So, you might be thinking, is Norris ever going to throw his signature kicks? Well, my friend (can I call you my friend?), don’t worry. He fights a man in a clown mask. Yes, it’s as badass as it sounds. Five guys in clown masks come to his house and try to kill him and his dog. The fools brought guns to a Norris-roundhouse-kick fight.
The movie gets super dark again with the white supremacist group doing some target practice. The wooden cutouts are painted black and they are using heavy artillery. When the boss goes through the targets to see how his men faired during the training, he finds a target that wasn’t touched. He picks it up and yells “This is a miss. This is unacceptable”, then proceeds to take out his gun and shoot it in the head. What the hell type of tone is this movie supposed to have?
But hey a dog eats a hot dog and makes Norris pays for it, Comedy!
Cut to a cute dog show competition where we have Reno stealing the best in show prize ribbon from Lacy the dog. Then the kid, the grandson of the previous partner, tries various hats and sunglasses on Reno in a hilarious montage made just for kids. Just forget about all the hate speech, look at the dog in the leather bike hat, this is a kid’s movie. Norris is also doing some gardening work for his mom. Lovely son and mom quality time. Beautiful messages all around. Moms no simple mom she knows when Hitler’s birthday is and it so happens to be tomorrow so the big attack must be happening on that date. You know that Neo-Nazis are picky about their dates. My god can this movie pick a tone…
Norris is now dead set on stopping this hate group once and for all. He doesn’t need back up, he has Reno, and they head right into the lion’s mouth. Norris is surrounded by bad guys a we get a huge fight sequence where they attack him one by one, following order of arrival. I mean if we can’t follow our civil ethics during a brawl, we are no different from animals. They overtake his stunt double and that is the only reason why there was a stunt double. See, they tried to film Norris being overtaken by the bad guys, but they couldn’t physically do it and in the rare moments they were able to overtake him for a brief second the cameras refused to capture it. Don’t worry, Reno gets in on the action as he jumps through a glass window, escaping from the bad guys. Reno does his own stunts and saves Norris from death.
Norris finds out that the “The coalition for racial unity” rally at the park is the main target for the bad guys. I mean, wouldn’t that have been the obvious target to hit? Norris is driving as fast as he can and Reno is swerving from side to side. It’s so cute I can’t bear it. He puts on his seatbelt because he can’t handle the frantic driving of Norris. I mean they are on their way to stop a massacre in the name of white power, but look at the cute dog. Can’t wait to share this with my kids. I don’t have kids, but if I did…
A catholic Cardinal, a Jewish rabbi and a Hindu holy man are locked in a limo with a bomb about to go off. This isn’t a set up for a joke, this is an actual scene in this movie. The massacre starts and everybody is getting shot and mass hysteria is going on. While all this murder is happening, Norris is busy trying to disarm the bomb… because I get that they are the only one’s worth saving. I mean, who am I to judge any action Norris makes? Norris stops the bomb and the swat team appears and from the chaos peace arrives.
But wait there are still the two leaders of the group left to be stopped. Norris is chasing after one along with Reno and the other one is being taken down by a woman of color. Yeah! Irony right there, or is it justice… Nevermind, Norris’s stunt double is back and ready to fight the main bad guy in a jungle set. The fool brought racism to a Chuck Norris stunt double fight. They use stunt doubles because one single kick from Norris would kill any ordinary man. Reno barks out a confession from the bad guy and the religious leaders are freed from the limo.
But hey the dog steals the catholic Cardinal’s scarf, COMEDY WINS! This is definitely a kid’s movie after all. Chuck Norris running after a dog is why I love movies.
Top Dog is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. Take a bite out of this entertaining piece of cinema.
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