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Luc Besson is often referred to as a Director who (disturbing behaviour aside) peaked back in the 90's with popular feature Leon: The Professional, and hasn't quite managed to hit those heights since. With a rough few years with features including Anna (2019) and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017), it's been a while since he took on a notable project.

Dogman may not quite be that, but it comes closer than his previous few. With a fantastic lead performance from Caleb Landry Jones and a crazy unique premise that's equally entertaining and dumb, Dogman is full of tonal inconsistencies yet has a lot of heart and tells an engaging story.


As a child, Douglas was abused by a violent father who then threw him to the dogs. Instead of attacking him, the dogs protected him. Traumatised and leading a life on the margins of society with his dogs, Douglas descends into a murderous madness.


If you're looking for an actor to play a character that's slightly unhinged, bruised by trauma and a bit of a lost soul, Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out) is the man for the job. Delivering a mesmerising performance as Douglas, a cross-dressing wheelchair-bound vigilante, he really does what he does best and is the movies best asset. Telling his story to a psychiatrist, played well by Jojo T. Gibbs (Fresh), Jones is believable at all times as he explores his characters troubled childhood, abusive past and how he came to be who he is – a man who uses his pack of dogs to commit murder. Simply put, he is the reason Dogman is as watchable as it is, and he carries the uneven narrative on his back. As well as Jones and Gibbs, Grace Palma is likeable with her small amount of screen-time, providing a light-hearted joy that the movie often needs.

Dog lovers will be pleased to see that – as the title suggests – there are dogs aplenty. They're well trained, cute and there is a wide mix of breeds to gawk at. There's even a scene involving a sweet, fluffy puppy – it is incredibly endearing. It's a fun juxtaposition to see this loveable group of mutts take down criminals and inflict pain, and those action scenes are certainly entertaining to watch. The problem is that there's simply not enough of said scenes. Despite it being interesting to hear Douglas discussing his past, mostly due to Jones' stellar performance, it's not balanced well enough with the action and therefore lacks fun. The first thirty minutes are quite promising, as Douglas is caught by the Police with a very large pack of dogs in his van. However, we soon learn that the movies focus is on discussions and flashbacks of the past, rather than his exploits with his pack of hounds. Those conversations are extremely heavy, as Douglas' experiences are brutal and harrowing, but the scenes involving the dogs are campy and silly. This ultimately creates a huge tonal inconsistency, as it never leans into its batshit craziness enough. The stories Douglas is telling are wild and unbelievable, but it takes itself very seriously. Dogman should be more fun.


As well as the tonal messiness, the main issue with the script is that it packs in way too much. The film wants to be a character study and an action flick, but never finds the balance. It wants to explore trauma, religion, abuse and family amongst plenty of other themes, but doesn't have enough commentary within the script to say enough about said themes. Dogman has a cross-dressing wheelchair-bound crime-fighting vigilante lead, a pack of dogs, childhood flashbacks, a side character with a tough home life, an abusive uber-religious family, a police search, a heart-breaking 'love' story, a lengthy interview between Douglas and his psychiatrist – it's all just way, way too much. Every point mentioned above is fun, entertaining, heart-breaking or pivotal in some way, but nothing is developed, meaning it lacks in consistency and depth.

Dogman deserves credit for how unique it is. It takes risks, it's utterly crazy (what other film has a dog that is able to find a police car after being shown a picture of one?) and due to an exceptional lead performance from Caleb Landry Jones, it has a lot of heart and manages to captivate and entertain. The sweet dogs are an extra bonus, and there are plenty of them. Ultimately though it fails because it attempts to tackle way too much and therefore leaves many threads underdeveloped, and it doesn't realise the hilarious and campy potential of the gang of canine criminals. Dogman is good, but doesn't quite reach great.


Rating Dogman



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