TV Review: ‘Mad Dogs’

Amazon's 'Mad Dogs' takes viewers on
Courtesy Amazon/Sony Pictures Television

Mad Dogs” starts off as a lark — four guys head to Belize to visit a longtime friend, whose success has allowed him to buy a beachfront villa and enjoy a laid-back lifestyle. But their buddy’s life is not stress-free, as it turns out, and the group holiday quickly turns into a collective nightmare. Unfortunately, the experience of watching “Mad Dogs” contains echoes of what the characters experience. Despite a strong cast, the Amazon drama quickly devolves into a series of tiresome squabbles, mistakes and annoyances. Perhaps this version, adapted from a British program, would have been better off as a film. Ultimately, it’s difficult to picture anyone wanting to binge-watch a 10-episode show that ends up being quite predictable.

Director Charles McDougall wrings the maximum potential from the show’s locations (though the story is set in Belize, “Mad Dogs” was shot in Puerto Rico). Michael Imperioli, Romany Malco, Steve Zahn and Ben Chaplin play the four friends who arrive at the sunny mansion owned by their friend, Milo (Billy Zane). The first episode does a fine job of depicting the subtle tensions and quiet animosities that lurk just below the surface of the friendships, and McDougall capably injects a growing atmosphere of menace into the proceedings. Despite the appearance of ease and luxury, all is not well with Milo, who may be mixed up in something complicated and dangerous.

After that relatively engrossing first episode, however, things quickly becomes repetitive, and despite the actors’ game investment in the material, it’s difficult to care much about a group of middle-aged men who constantly snipe at each other and do a fine job of getting themselves in deeper trouble every time they try to dig themselves out of a bad situation. The circular nature of the overall story is the biggest problem in “Mad Dogs”: Once it’s clear that every attempt to undo previous mistakes will only land the men in deeper trouble — and that basic scenario keeps playing out over and over — it becomes challenging to stick with the show.

There are fine dialogue scenes here, in which the men pick at old wounds and examine the ways in which their lives did not match the expectations they had when they were younger, and full of optimism and energy. But ultimately, even the themes of disappointment and regret don’t coalesce into gripping character studies. These are simply a collection of more or less unremarkable men in over their heads, who tend to follow bad decisions with even worse reasoning. Watching them try to dig themselves out of the complications they create for themselves is hardly a mental holiday; it’s alternately stressful and repetitive.

TV Review: 'Mad Dogs'

(Series; Amazon, Fri., Jan. 22)

Production

Filmed in Puerto Rico by Left Bank Pictures, MiddKid Prods. and Amazon Studios in association with Sony Pictures Television.

Crew

Executive producers, Shawn Ryan, Cris Cole, Marney Hochman, Andy Harries, Suzanne Mackie, Charles McDougall; producers, Danielle Weinstock; Ken Topolsky; writer, Cole; director, Charles McDougall; director of photography, Nelson Cragg; production designer, Clark Hunter; costume designer, Doug Hall; editors, Robert Komatsu, Amy Fleming; music, Robert Duncan; casting Rebecca Mangieri, Wendy Weidman, Patricia Alonso. 60 MIN

Cast

Ben Chaplin, Michael Imperioli, Romany Malco, Steve Zahn, Billy Zane, Phil Davis, Maria Botto, Kevin Jackson, Mark Povinelli

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  1. Annie graham says:

    Best series we have seen in a long time hope there is a second one.watched the 10 episodes in 2 days

  2. Oliver Shagnasty says:

    This show had a great pace. Did you watch the entire season? Episode 10 introduces something that makes you look at everything that came before in a different light. It is why season two will be interesting and different, and probably great. Personal opinion – Steve Zahn is so under rated. This was a nice change from the painfully slow character/plot building shows like Bloodlines.

  3. htiek says:

    Whatever… Mad Dogs was awesome. I watched the whole season in 2 days. Yes you kind of knew that they would just dig a new hole after getting out of the old one, but these days almost everything is predictable. How it’s delivered is what I look for and it did a great job of keeping my attention.

    • heather says:

      YES! I totally AGREE. The cinematography and the sound are in complete flow with delivering the twisted story. It reminds me of Twin Peaks, with the bizarre flashes of characters. This ” Critic” needs to get another job.

  4. Marybeth says:

    I couldn’t disagree more. I found this to be one of the most binge-worthy shows I’ve ever seen. It is absolutely insane and the directing is excellent.

  5. Lara says:

    The first series of the British version was great, the next two were not.

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