Johnny Mad Dog, maybe 15, leads a band of boy soldiers in a civil war in an unnamed African country. "Don't want to die? Don't be born" is one of their shouted mottoes. We follow Mad Dog and his crew - No Good Advice, Butterfly, Chicken Hair, and others - as they kill, pillage rape, interrogate, and terrorize on their march to the capital. They take a TV station and lead an assault on the President's residence. We also follow Laokole, about Johnny age, as she tries to hold together her family of brother and disabled father. Is there more than chaos and inhumanity here? At war since age 10, has Johnny anything inside? Written by
I didn't really know what "Johnny Mad Dog" was going to be about, but I'm really into obscure foreign films as they usually become little gems. Still, with not much about this on IMDb and little being known about this film I was going to give it a miss on Film4. However, when I heard my favourite critic, Chris Tookey saying that he loved it I had to give it a chance because often anything he loves, I love. However, this is one of the few films we will have to remain indifferent on.
"Johnny Mad Dog" follows a group of child soldiers in Liberia 'fighting for freedom' by murdering and raping innocent families and even children. I found it all quite upsetting actually and it really is not a fun watch. Don't get me wrong I like a gut-wrenching, hard hitting film as much as the next person, maybe even more so, but I prefer it when a bit of plot is thrown in. For me "Johnny Mad Dog" was simply horrible people doing horrible things. There is a nice sub-plot with the little girl regarding her father and brother which follows her journey which is interesting. She's the only character you could feel sympathy for, but her story was pushed to the side for the child soldiers.
There isn't anyone to like and after a while it becomes repetitious and dull. I suppose this is its point, that horrible things and unacceptable things are happening in third-world countries now and something needs to be done. It reminded me of "Full Metal Jacket" in a way (which I also only gave two stars) in that it shows the horrors of war through realism. There are a few scenes that are actually quite gripping and well written, but most of them are just repetitive and boring.
"Johnny Mad Dog" was quite beautifully shot, especially when it juxtaposed the raw hand-held close-ups in the war scenes with still ones, like with the boy in the wedding dress at the beginning. It's also quite interesting when these heartless child soldiers show some compassion and I really did like the ending. I did feel moved after watching it, but I can't help but think with a clear narrative that this could've been something of a masterpiece.
My opinion was that I was bored through a lot of it. It's not nice to watch and I would not watch it again, but it is something that I won't forget. Still, films can be extremely hard-hitting yet grip you at the same time with a strong narrative e.g. "Schindler's List" is a film I am anticipating to see again and it showed images probably more-so horrific than this. "Johnny Mad Dog" is a thought-provoking piece and it was effective in the way that they used first-time actors, but it wasn't for me.
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