Johnny Mad Dog

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Johnny Mad Dog, Cannes, Un Certain Regard

Kidnapping takes its vilest form as armed children in Liberia commandeer other kids to join their marauding troop. Fiction based on unbelievable fact, "Johnny Mad Dog" chronicles the atrocities of the ongoing civil war in that West African nation. Although hard to watch, it's an important document that should scorch sensibilities on the festival circuit. Domestically, it's heady stuff for a cable channel.

Toked on weed and cranked by the gung-ho rants of their commander, these gun-toting rebels storm through the countryside -- looting, raping, killing. In filmmaker Jean-Stephane Sauvaire's depiction of the savagery, we are thrust straight into the path of this terror. Bedecked in a motley array of bizarre costumery, the marauders are horrifying: Mostly illiterate and glazed with mass-media culture, these kid soldiers are desensitized and deadly.

Sauvaire's blistering scenario centers on a 15-year old, Johnny Mad Dog, who has ransacked the countryside since he was ten. His followers are brutal and hysterical, pumped on more than adrenaline. They are scariest because they are so irrational: shooting a kid because he misidentified bananas, killing an old man for a pig they don't need, raping an elderly teacher after they've asked her to define the area of a triangle. It's so crazy. Most scary, the kid/soldiers forget their murders as soon as they commit them.

Inter-cutting between Johnny Mad Dog's murderous barbarities and a proud young girl's struggle to save her legless father and protect her little brother, filmmaker Jean-Stephane Sauvaire has crafted a terrifying social/political document. Utilizing tight shots to thrust us directly in harm's way and barraging us with the explosions and screams, Sauvaire and the technical team have rendered a full-frontal assault on our sensibilities. In "Johnny Mad Dog," we are thrust into a world far worse than any hell we can imagine.

Cast: Christopher Minie, Daisy Victoria Vandy, Dagbeh Tweh, Barry Chernoh, Mohammed Sesay, Leo Boyeneh Kote, Prince Kotie. Director: Jean-Stephane Sauvaire. Screenwriter: Emmanuel Dongala. Producers: Mathieu Kassovitz, Benoit Jaubert. Director of photography:Marc Koninokx. Production designer: Alexandre Vivet. Music: Jackson Tennessee Fourgeaud. Editor: Stephane Elmadjian.
A coproduction of MNP Entreprise & Explicit Films in Coproduction with Scope Pictures
Sales: TF1 International.
No MPAA rating, 96 minutes.

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