Dir/Wri: Luc Besson | Cast: Caleb Landry Jones, Jojo T Gibbs | France, thriller 117′
A dog really is man’s best friend in Luc Besson’s latest, a canine thriller, based on real events. “Dogs have only one fault” according to Douglas, the main character, “they trust man”.
Wrapped round another astonishing performance from Caleb Landry Jones – in fact, he is the film – Dogman shows how a complex, wounded soul rebuilds his life thanks to the love and companionship of a pack of dogs of all breeds from tiny terriers to Corgis and Alsatians. The story is book-ended by his psychological assessment with struggling psychiatrist and single mother Evelyn (T.Gibbs) who feels compassion for Douglas’s suffering after he lands up in jail. The two are united by their respective pain.
French ‘cinema du look’ filmmaker, best known for his string of iconic hits, The Big Blue, Nikita and Leon adds another crowd pleaser to the list. Dogman is a likeable character we can all relate to; an honest broker with a heart and soul despite his flaws. And we feel for him.
A tough childhood sees Douglas thrown into a cage of dogs by his cruel father whose abuse forces the boy (played by Lincoln Powell) into a wheelchair. The dogs rally round and become a supportive family in his eventive journey through life And here Besson stretches our credibility to the limit in what Douglas actually get up to but somehow it works.
Besson endows Douglas with many qualities: compassion; kindness; persistence; self-deprecation and a certain nobleness of character. He is a perfect role model for everyman, let alone the hard-done-by. And he has bankable talents too: a melodious singing voice that sees him impersonate Edith Piaf, Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Monroe. Landry-Jones plays him with an endearing serenity despite his ill-changing injuries. But woe betide anyone who pushes him too far. And the plot turns on a revenge saga that sees Douglas and his dogs rally round a vulnerable woman in some ludicrous scenes that really beggar belief. Dogman has that same idiosyncratic visual allure of all Besson’s features. Despite its flaws this is another winner entertainment-wise. MT
VENICE FILM FESTIVAL | GOLDEN LION 2023