Monday, May 20, 2024

Muzzle movie review & film summary (2023)

Jake is a combat veteran with PTSD and lives a narrow, antisocial life. People give him a wide berth. In a call gone wrong, Ace dies in a shootout. When an unfortunate paramedic tells the panicked Jake the dog will have to wait until he finishes with the injured human, Jake attacks the paramedic. The altercation is caught by passersby on cellphone videos, and Jake wakes up famous for all the wrong reasons. He’s suspended from his job and forced to see a therapist.

“Muzzle” is a thriller, in a way, but it’s also a character study, in a way, as well as a look, in a way, at the relationship between police officers and their canines. Mourning for Ace, Jake decides to go after the people behind the incident (in which multiple police officers were killed, a car was blown up, and fentanyl canisters were found in the rubble). In his pursuit, Jake trips over an underworld of shady characters, trafficked dogs, and businesses acting as fronts for fentanyl production. Jake’s new canine partner is a cutie named Socks, who is traumatized by her past treatment. She crouches in her cage, muzzle over her mouth. Jake and Socks are the same. In a way.

There are thrilling moments as Jake tracks down the shady characters and touching moments when Socks opens up to Jake. There are scenes of Jake and Socks in K-9 training, which are the best moments in “Muzzle.” This is well-tread ground in film (see: “Turner & Hooch,” among others), but the under-seen and excellent “Megan Leavey” is the most in-depth portrayal of this human-canine working relationship. “Megan Leavey” successfully does what “Muzzle” tries to do: portray the journey of a cold and/or damaged human having to open up in new ways to properly care for and train their canine partner. You can’t be cold, mean, or frustrated when training a dog. You must deal with your issues before picking up the dog leash. “Muzzle” attempts to make those connections in a rote, obedient way.

The handling of a love interest relationship indicates all the problems at work in “Muzzle.” Jake, glowering and grumpy (not to mention notorious because he’s seen assaulting a first responder on every news channel), meets a random woman (Penelope Mitchell) in the laundry room in his building. He is taciturn to the point of unfriendliness. Yet, despite being a nurse with a supposedly busy career, she’s intrigued by this thundercloud of a man and knocks on his door later, telling him if he ever needs to talk, she’s available. She oozes sympathy and concern for this total stranger who has already shown his capacity for being frightening and violent. It makes no sense. She shows up randomly, leaves the plot for a long period (the movie doesn’t even miss her), and then strolls back into sight at the end. No work has been done to give her any substance or even reason for being.

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HomeReviewsMuzzle movie review & film summary (2023)

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