Familiar from two quarters, edgy police work and cute dog syndrome mix with uneven results in the movie Muzzle. Director John Stalberg Jr. joins screenwriter Carlyle Eubank for a look at the bonding between two tough-as nails-types—a war veteran turned police officer and an abused fighting dog. Set in the skid row communities of Los Angeles, the movie quickly loses a full-out K-9 comedy or Turner and Hooch light tone, though its officer played by Aaron Eckhart talks warmly to his first furry partner. Music hints at dark action to come in a world that squeezes the traumatized officer from all corners. Police—ostensibly on his side—go after his credibility while drug dealers hit the dark side. Director Stalberg catches a seamy sense of L.A. effectively, especially since he filmed most of the movie in Kentucky. It all looks grim enough for the officer, with salvation coming in furry form, though not without challenges. The writers definitely lean on the side of dogs, acknowledging that despite a functional role as tools, the animals also play a healing role as family. Highlights include training day scenes with dogs—and most hearts melt at such sequences. Various dogs work to steal the screen from Eckhart, despite the reliable presence he regularly demonstrates, most famously as Two Face in The Dark Knight. Eckhart and the dogs stay watchable, though they often find themselves stymied by a story that proves a more difficult obstacle course than the one challenging K-9 officers.
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