DogMan 2023)

Movie Info

Movie Info

Luc Besson
Run Time
1 hour and 53 minutes

VP Content Ratings

Sex & Nudity
Star Rating
★★★★4 out of 5

Relevant Quotes

But when I looked for good, evil came,
    and when I waited for light, darkness came.

Job 30:21


Doug with one of the 100+ dogs he maintains & trains to help rob homes of the rich.                      (c) Briarcliff Entertainment

The controversial Luc Besson’s new film is not quite as violent as his previous ones, but it is bizarre enough as a tale of cruelty that sensitive viewers might want to be wary of it. Its protagonist Douglas Munrow, superbly played by Caleb Landry Jones, is a victim who was literally thrown to the dogs as a child.

Douglas, dressed in drag as Marilyn Monroe, is arrested while driving a truck loaded with upset dogs. In jail criminal psychiatrist Evelyn Dcker (Jojo T. Gibbs) interviews him about his past, his telling his horrific life story becoming the framing device for the film.

As a boy he lived with his religiously fanatic brother Richie (Alexander Settineri) and his father Mike (Clemens Schick), who raises and trains fight dogs. His mother is kind, but just as abused by Mike as the boy is. Pregnant and unwilling to endure her tormentor any longer, she runs away—with Doug never blaming her but regarding her escape as a victory of freedom. When the abusive father becomes especially upset with him, the boy is thrown into the dog kennel and kept there, his food served him as if he were a dog. Several months later the father shoots Doug with his shotgun, thus paralyzing–g the boy from the waist down. He emerges from his trauma with as profound a rapport with and love of dogs as a distaste for human society.

Confined to a wheelchair, he spends his teen years in a boy’s home where young actress Salma (Grace Palma) works as a drama instructor. Seeing talent in the boy, she casts him in a number of Shakespeare plays. She teaches him how performance and putting on a stage disguise can aid him in overcoming the effects of his abuse. Douglas develops a crush on her, but she leaves the home to pursue her acting career. They will meet when she is a success on Broadway and he goes backstage to meet her. He does not expect her to remember him, but she does. However, his emerging hope for a romantic relationship is dashed when a man enters the dressing room, and Salma introduces him as her partner.

Doug learns that the animal shelter where he lives has run out of money and is about to close. He takes the dogs and finds shelter for them all in an abandoned building. Needing money to maintain them, he finds work as a drag queen. Though a sage success, he still is in need of funs, so he turns to robbing valuables from the homes of the rich—he trains the dogs how to sneak into a house and to identify and snatch in their jaws a valuable.

There is lots of action, especially in the sequence in which gangsters whom Doug has crossed invade his hideout and run afoul of his protective dogs—their takedowns of the thugs are not for the squeamish.

Best part of the weird film are the stage performances of Doug in drag, especially his first appearance dressed as Edith Piaf to lip synching her famous song “La Foule”—Wow!

Besson indulges in some religious symbolism at the end when Douglas stands before a church and its cross. I think that the negative reaction of some critics to this reveals more about their attitude toward Christianity than the meaning of the finale. Although this is suggesting Douglas is a Christ figure, I think he better represents a modern Job. The man’s use of his beloved dogs to wreak painful revenge upon his enemies, along with his facile justification for robbing the wealthy argue against the filmmaker’s intention. But the suffering of Job and his complaint to God in the passage above certainly apply to the unfortunate boy, who looked to his father for love and support, but found only cruelty and abuse.

Probably the main reason for watching this strange, crazy film is to see what a fine actor Caleb Landry Jones is. I am glad I went to see this depiction of cruelty and its effects, but want to wait a while before watching it again.

This review is in the May issue of VP along with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion. If you have found reviews on this site helpful, please consider purchasing a subscription or individual issue in The Store.

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