""If you had a time machine, right, would you go back in time and kill Hitler when he was still a young man?"" This oft-discussed philosophical quandary must, in some way, have inspired writer/director Menno Meyjes to create this strange little tale of a fictional art dealer (John Cusack) and his friendship with a young Adolf Hitler (Noah Taylor). Except the `time-travelling' Meyjes isn't suggesting that the young Hitler should have been offed - - rather that he should have been allowed to express his hatred and anger artistically instead of politically.
It's a good enough premise, and as a character portrait of Hitler at a crucial crossroads in his life, Max works. Taylor's pre-'tache Adolf is a twitchy, bitter loner, incapable of tact yet encouraging (whisper it) sympathy as he's torn between two mentors: Cusack's cynical Jewish gallery owner Max Rothman and Ulrich Thomsen's sinister National Socialist party recruiter.
But when it comes to realising the broader historical picture, Meyjes fluffs it, choosing to give his picture a feel of timelessness rather than attempt to faithfully recreate 1918 Munich. It's a mistake to ignore the crucial relevance of what was going on in Germany at the time, and occasional touches of comedy are equally ill-advised, especially when they push Hitler to the brink of caricature. Come the winking climax, Meyjes' heavy-handed irony has killed the resonance.