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DOGMAN | 2023

Luc Besson is known for quirky films like The Fifth Element and Léon: The Professional. His style of storytelling as a writer and director is unique. His characters are multidimensional and not cookie-cutter, cut-and-paste ones that most films have these days.

DOGMAN is no different the story written and directed by Besson is ultra original and echoes shades of his earlier works like La Femme Nikita. The characters are more than they seem on the surface and by the end they rarely resemble the person we were first introduced to.

DOGMAN is the story of Douglas “The Dogman” Munrow(Caleb Landry Jones). When first introduced to Munrow, he is pulled over and arrested by police. He is is dressed in drag, visibly injured and his truck is full of dogs.

Evelyn(Jojo T. Gibbs), a psychiatrist, is tasked with the job of interrogating Munrow. Flashbacks tell the story of his life, one full of violence and abuse laid upon him by his father and brother. His story isn’t all dire though, while in a juvenile institute, he discovers love, through his theatre teacher Salma Bailey (Grace Palma). She brings him into contact with the works of Shakespeare. These works he can recite by heart.

He then recounts a life of crime where he teaches his loyal pack of dogs (which he calls his family) to steal, from the families he’s adopted them out to. His dogs are also used as protective measures for those he deems in need.

It is also revealed through discussions that Douglas performs weekly as a drag queen, lipsynching to music in a cabaret act. This is why he was in drag when arrested at the start of the film.

Besson crafts a story full of cliches and unbelievable occurrences. This isn’t different than the world in The Fifth Element, the difference is this film is an action, thriller where as The Fifth Element is pure science fiction.

The story is not always cohesive and at times very dark, but Jones saves it with his tour de force acting. He is one of the main reasons to check out the film. The wheel of emotion which he spins throughout is always on point. The way he hopscotches from happy to sad is astonishing. Sure, this can also be great direction by Besson, but it’s evident that Caleb Landry Jones is a ultra talent.

Gibbs is no slouch in the acting deparentment either, she keeps pace with Jones. The scenes where both are interacting with each other are more interesting than say dogs that can take out gangs that are using firearms to hunt them. .

Pacing is an issue with DOGMAN, sometimes it can lag a little throughout its almost two hour runtime. This is easily forgiven as most of these lags lead to interesting flashbacks and sprinkles of great storytelling.

DOGMAN isn’t a film for everyone, there’s a heapful in the content that can be triggering. This isn’t Besson’s finest works, but it entertains more as a character piece than a thriller. As interesting as it is to see the dogs do these odd tasks in the film, the bread and butter is the acting of Caleb Landry Jones. His portrayal of this character of Douglas Munrow is often a sad one full of depressing memories. What really catches the eye though is how he turns around the abuse he suffers and cares for his dogs, never treating them badly (except for putting them in harms way a handful of times, but noone is perfect).

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