DOGMAN (2023)

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DOGMAN (2023)
Written and Directed by Luc Besson
Releasing on Blu-ray and digital platforms in the UK & Ireland from 11th March 2024

After being pulled over by the cops whilst driving a van load full of dogs, a battered and bruised Douglas is held in a detention centre where he is questioned by psychiatrist Evelyn. Purely from his appearance, dressed in a blonde Marilyn Monroe wig and pink dress, complete with pink elbow-length gloves, it’s clear that Douglas has a story to tell. As Evelyn begins to unpick his life, delving as far back as his childhood, the audience discovers how Douglas Monrow became a cross-dressing hermit on the run with dozens of dogs for company.

One of the most iconic directors, Luc Besson, is back with canine drama-thriller DOGMAN and it’s every bit of enthralling as the trailer makes it out to be. It’s dangerous and violent, but is also quite sweet and funny at times, whilst displaying the power of hope and love through many of the emotional dramatic scenes. It’s such a hard film to categorise because it touches on so many emotions and elements that it’s neither one nor the other. It heavily deals with trauma and we see how Douglas deals with and overcomes this. In a way it feels like the backstory for a comic book anti-hero. Its dramatic and theatrical nature makes it such a fun film to invest in, even if it has dark overtones, but doesn’t the best? For instance, the heroes in Batman and Spider-Man both suffered a great loss, and DogMan Douglas is no different. And who doesn’t love the idea of a ‘hero’, aided by his canines, rising up against the wicked, the wealthy and the powerful?

In the film and TV business, they say never work with children or animals. Well, in DOGMAN it’d be hard not to work with canines considering how integral they are to the story, but never have I seen a movie that employs so many mutts in one place. Not only that, the fact that there’s such a mixture of breeds on display, many of whom have their own part to play, whether it’s running from A to B, down the street or through a gap in the wall, or bringing Douglas ingredients to bake a cake (but that’s not all they get up to!). There’s  a German Shepherd, Dobermans, Corgi, Jack Russell, Chihuahua, Terriers, Saluki, Komondors (or perhaps another type of dog with dreadlock fur) and Irish Wolfhounds. That is not a complete list, by the way, but just some of the breeds that I remember. There’s far more on screen than I could count and seeing them working solo and together as a group is wonderful to see. A huge well done to whoever owned and trained the dogs to, not only perform, but to be calm and controlled in the company of a room full of other dogs. As a dog owner myself, I know that’s no mean feat!

Growing up in a brutal, unloving home, lead character Douglas found companionship, love and loyalty from dogs which he carried on into his adult life. He could always rely on them and had their unwavering support, finding them the only family he needed who wouldn’t let him down like he had been by humans. His upbringing left him wheelchair bound with the ability to walk only a little with the aid of leg braces, with any real movement threatening to worsen his already severe spinal injury. The lack of mobility doesn’t stop him from achieving his goals, however, and he finds a way to make ends meet, usually utilising the special skills of his ‘children’, and what talented hounds they are! Under Douglas’ instruction, the dogs can turn from protector to hunter, and have a range of skills besides these that can help Douglas continue his life providing them a safe and loving home where they’ll be cared for. The relationship he has with the dogs is unbreakable.

Caleb Landry Jones is a revelation as human lead star, Douglas. He’s the main draw of the story, besides the dogs of course, and carries most of the plot with his incredible turn as a guy who’s been dealt a shitty hand in life but who refuses to be a victim. His innate sense of duty to do what’s right and deliver fairness and justice sees him power through any and all obstacles. He’s smart, clever and full of love for his dogs. Humans though? Not so much, as they prove themselves time and time again that they cannot be trusted, but that’s not to say he doesn’t have a small circle of human friends who he can rely on from time to time. Caleb’s performance is captivating and he commands the screen with his expressive performance. For most of the movie, Douglas is such a reserved and calm character, but Caleb is able to do so much within this, and brings so much life and colour to the role especially when the scene demands more of the character. He looks pretty good in drag too! Douglas’ penchant for dressing up has numerous benefits, and there’s more reasons as to why he does so than meets the eye. That’s what’s so enjoyable about this movie; there’s so many layers to unpick.

Vibrant and heartfelt, with tremendous action-packed canine choreography, DOGMAN is the deliverer of justice every dog lover can get behind. If you were pumping your fist in the air at John Wick getting his revenge on the guys who hurt his puppy, then you’ll love what DOGMAN has in store for you.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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About Bat 4389 Articles
I love practical effects, stop-motion animation and gore, but most of all I love a good story! I adore B-movies and exploitation films in many of their guises and also have a soft spot for creature features. I review a wide range of media including movies, TV series, books and videogames. I'm a massive fan of author Hunter S. Thompson and I enjoy various genre of videogames with Kingdom Hearts and Harvest Moon two of my all time favs. Currently playing: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Yakuza Zero and Mafia III.

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