'Mad Dogs' Review: Guys In Trouble, In A Beautiful Setting

·Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
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A group of men journey to a beach in Belize to reunite with an old buddy. The host is a very successful fellow; his invitees — well, they’re all in varying degrees of mid-life and/or financial crises. They drink, they talk about women, they rib each other mercilessly — boys will be boys, you know? Then their host enlists them in what they initially think is a prank: stealing a local boat. The next thing you know, it’s all death, breathless chases, piles of stolen money, and people with creepy animal masks wielding guns.

Mad Dogs is a buddy-adventure show, based on a successful BBC series of the same name — over in Britain, the title is part of a common phrase from a Noel Coward song from the 1930s: “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” The guys in the American version of Mad Dogs, developed by British originator Chris Cole and The Shield’s Shawn Ryan, are forced by circumstances to spend a lot of time in the baking-hot midday sun once one of them dies, a satchel of drug money is found, the Belize police force starts sniffing around, and they’re pursued by… who?

The opening hour plays out like a second-rate David Mamet play, with the show’s stars — Billy Zane (who plays the wealthy host), Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos), Steve Zahn (Treme) , Romany Malco (The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Weeds), and Ben Chaplin (The Thin Red Line) — busting on each other in ways that turn good-natured kidding into mean digs at each other’s weaknesses. There’s a long dinner scene in which Zane’s character is particularly shrewd at breaking down each man’s defenses, and that’s the point at which we as viewers realize Zane has assembled the guys here for a dark reason other than to relive good times.

The extent to which you enjoy Mad Dogs depends on how much you like to see guys ridicule each other, and how much tolerance you have for withheld information about who’s after them and what they should do with that money — and the corpse of one of the men. I’m not saying who it is, even though the pilot for Mad Dogs has existed for a year on Amazon Prime’s video site.

The tropical backdrop looks great — it’s like watching an episode of Survivor with a bunch of hyped-up macho actors (in other words, exactly like an episode of Survivor, minus Jeff Probst). But you have to put up with a lot of macho bluster and silliness, with dialogue that sometimes shades over into Three Stooges territory. (“Why were you running?” “I was running because you were running!”) If your tolerance for tough-guy bravado with flashes of violence is high, you might enjoy running with these mad dogs.

Mad Dogs is streaming now on Amazon Prime.