Live Entertainment released ‘Top Dog,’ in 1995. It is a Chuck Norris action comedy directed by Aaron Norris who co-wrote it with Tim Grayem with a screenplay by Ron Swanson.
Stubborn and hotheaded San Diego police detective Lt. Jake Wilder (Chuck Norris) is taken off suspension by Capt. Ken Callahan (Clyde Kusatsu) after the death of highly decorated Detective Sgt. Lou Swanson (Carmine Caridi). Wilder is angered when he is forced to work with K-9 officer Reno, Lou’s partner who is a highly celebrated police dog. Wilder and Reno do not get along and are constantly bickering. Reno’s new handler Det. Savannah Boyette (Michele Lamar Richards) and Lou’s grandson Matthew (Erik von Detten) try to get Wilder to respect Reno, but the two do not mesh. However, Wilder soon learns that a white supremacist group led by Otto Dietrich (Kai Wuff) and Karl Koller (Peter Savard Moore) are planning a massive attack and the only witness to what their planning is Reno.
Now, this flick was made at a time when buddy cop flicks were being films with tough-as-nails cops being partnered with dogs. Honestly, this one does not stand out among that batch. In that subgenre, it is not unique other than it stars Chuck Norris (more on that later). In that sense, the film just seeks to capitalize on a craze. Unfortunately, that ended up being its downfall. Despite being in the top 10 on its opening box office weekend, its release coincided with the Oklahoma City bombing. With its subject matter surrounding domestic terrorism, it did not help out and barely made a penny before being released on home video.
That being said, this movie is incredibly hilarious in the fact that it is so campy. This feature does not even try to hide it. I feel like Aaron Norris and Tim Grayem knew the script was insane and they just said, “Okay, let’s go for it,” because that is what it feels like. It is self-aware. Sure, it has some distracting subplots, such as Matt taking Reno to a dog show and Wilder taking Reno to search a crime scene unrelated to the film’s plot. Ultimately, it still manages to entertain because of its sense of humor and as long as you are not searching for something deep, it is quite enjoyable.
The cast did an adequate job with their roles. It was good to see Michele Lamar Richards. I always felt that she was a talent that never really got a chance to shine. Her screentime was short, but it was still cool to watch her perform, being the straight character to the protagonist’s tough guy.
As for Chuck Norris, he is good at playing to type. In this film, it is a parody of his previous roles and he does it excellently. He is epic in every fight scene and brings a lot with his steely-eyed gaze. Of course, he delivers all of the punches and roundhouse kicks that you can get from this feature. Ironically, Chuck Norris tried to pass on this movie since he was filming ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ at the time, but went for it due to the pestering of his brother. Personally, I am glad he did because I do not think this movie would have been passable without him.
Bottom line, Top Dog is a hilarious, cheesy, and campy good time. You get to watch Chuck Norris beat up the bad guys with a dog sidekick. What more could you possibly want?
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Foul language, Violence, Racially charged incidents
FAVORITE QUOTE: What makes you think I’m going to work with a mutt?
Check out the epic trailer narrated by the late-great Don LaFontaine:
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This articles has been updated from a previous version.