Awfully Good: Top Dog

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Who needs a gangsta kitty in KEANU when you have a dog man-enough to roll with Chuck Norris?


Top Dog (1995)


Director: Aaron Norris
Stars: Chuck Norris, A Dog


Only Chuck Norris and Chuck Norris' dog can save San Diego from white supremacist terrorists.

TOP DOG is remembered mainly as that movie where Chuck Norris had to share top billing with a canine partner. But you also might recall the fact that MGM had the Texas Ranger-sized cajones to still release this movie—a family action-comedy about a domestic terror attack—a week after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings. 

Who let the dogs out? THESE GUYS.

Obviously critics and audiences weren't thrilled about the timing and the film was a major failure that marked the end of the Chuck Norris we loved. EXPENDABLES 2 cameo aside, TOP DOG was Norris' last theatrically released film, banishing the MISSING IN ACTION star to direct-to-video movies and ironic internet fame. It was definitely a low point to go out on too—essentially a cheesy remake of TURNER AND HOOCH (or K-9 with Jim Belushi or KARATE DOG with Chevy Chase). It's pretty much exactly the same—a cop begrudgingly partners with a dog who was the witness to his owner being killed—except Tom Hanks doesn't roundhouse members of the KKK or have a beard made of steel wool.

His methods may be unorthodox, but Mr. McCormack was the best math teacher in the state. 

And if you're assuming that Walker Texas Ranger paired up with a sassy pooch must make TOP DOG kid-friendly… not so fast. The movie opens with the heroic title character going in to a burning building and rescuing a baby. Just when you're starting to get attached, in the next scene, the dog is immediately shot and his dying body callously thrown in a river. (You better show your children ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN before this one.) This is also a family movie where the bad guys are violent white supremacist terrorists trying to blow up public events and gun down any survivors. The film also makes the odd decision to constantly showcase their hateful rhetoric, including an entire five-minute speech where the leader debases specific ethnic groups in detail. It's so awkwardly unnecessary. We don't need to hear a guy yelling about how "the blacks are raping and murdering our women" to know that he's a villain worthy of Chuck Norris' Fists of Justice.   

Oh well, at least it gives Chuck Norris the opportunity to fight a Nazi clown. (No, really…)

Congratulations. You're pregnant now. 

Thankfully Chuck Norris is at peak "Chuck Norris" in this movie and it is glorious to watch. The film introduces his character Jake Wilder waking up exactly as you imagine Chuck Norris greeting each morning—hungover amongst a sea of empty beer cans, man garbage, and what I can only assume is the remnants of a hooker orgy. His character predictably doesn't play by the rules, even those covering basic decency toward animals. Norris constantly yells at the dog, calling him a "pussy" and threatening to shoot him in the head if he can’t sniff out any drugs. He's also a pretty lousy cop, never bothering to get warrants before punching his way in to places and at one point literally arresting "every racist in the city" trying to find information. He also needs the help of his elderly mother to figure out when the terrorists will strike, since she's the one who says, "If I was going to bomb a bunch of minorities, I'd do it on Hitler's birthday." (Though no one in this movie is smart enough to figure out that the target of a racist terror attack might be the "Coalition of Racial Unity.")

After the phone stopped ringing, Benji coped like so many Hollywood stars before him.

As for the dog itself, the alleged TOP DOG is definitely no Lassie. Police dogs are supposed to be impeccably trained. Reno does whatever the hell he wants, whether it's eating Chuck Norris' rotisserie chicken, electrocuting an innocent TV repairman, or yawning while Norris gets his ass kicked in a drug bust and then somehow taking credit for the entire operation. And not only is he disobedient, but Reno is also alarmingly intelligent—at one point going full HOME ALONE on bad guys by setting elaborate booby traps and personally executing them. Why is this dog allowed on the police force? It clearly understands the concepts of spite and vengeance! 

Oh my God, it IS Ron Swanson!

The film ends with Reno the hero dog choking a Catholic archbishop and dragging him to the ground by his neck. I think the title of this movie is missing a word: TOP [ASSHOLE] DOG.

Chuck Norris' best one liners.

Best action moments and fight scenes, both from the dog and Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris' beard goes full frontal. 

Chuck Norris' dog is trained to pick up his own poop, because Chuck Norris will not take shit from anyone. Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • The dog chews a scarf
  • The white supremacists are racist
  • Chuck Norris roundhouse kicks someone
  • Chuck Norris says, "Damn dog"
  • Proper police procedure is ignored

Double shot if:

  • Chuck Norris beats up a Nazi clown


Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.


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