Home  •  About  •  Contact  •  Twitter  •  Google+  •  Facebook  •  Tumblr  •  Youtube  •  RSS Feed
Red Dog

Red Dog

By Frances Taylor • February 22nd, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 2/5
G2 Pictures

Release date: February 24th, 2012
Certificate (UK): PG
Running time: 92 minutes

Country of origin: Australia

Director: Kriv Stenders
Writer: Louis de Bernieres, Daniel Taplitz

Cast: John Lucas, Rachel Taylor, Noah Taylor, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Luke Ford

First things first, I’m a sucker for a dog story. I love dogs, I grew up with dogs, I’m the weirdo in the park grinning at other people’s dogs. I once had to leave a cafe because I needed to cry when the dog in my book got cancer. With this in mind, I didn’t wear any make-up when I sat down to watch Red Dog, just in case…

On a lonely drive through the Australian outback, trucker Thomas (Luke Ford) stops off for the night in the town of Dampier. In the bar, men are huddled, shouting in the back room. One of them is holding a shotgun. They’re standing over Red Dog, a Red Cloud Kelpie on his last legs from strychnine poisoning. As more of the town’s residents come in to pay their last respects to Red Dog, they tell Thomas their stories of him and how much he’s meant to them over his years in the town.

Red Dog

In the beginning, Red Dog appeared to Jack (Noah Taylor) and Maureen Collins (Leone Carmen), standing in the middle of the desert. Without invitation or direction, he hopped in the back of Jack’s van and rode with him to Dampier to start his new life.
On arrival, he befriended all of the men working in the iron plant, but allowed none of them to be his master until John (Josh Lucas) arrived in town. The pair became inseparable until tragedy struck, and John didn’t return home.

Red Dog was spotted from Perth to Darwin, perhaps even on a Japanese fishing boat in his search for his missing owner. Later, he returned to Dampier to settle his feud with Red Cat, inspire and encourage the townspeople once more, and represent all that is good and wholesome in the community.

Though the film is named after the dog, it focuses much more on the human characters. A lot of time is spent introducing them, giving them back-stories, quirks and catchphrases, but never enough to make me really care about any of them. The film jumped from story to story, character to character, and I was never fully invested in the plot. It wasn’t that the men, all men save for Nancy (Rachel Taylor), were unlikeable, but not endearing or memorable either.

The plot plodded along, being in turns ridiculous, unrealistic, heartwarming, sweet, infuriating and boring.

Red Dog

Even for someone who loves dogs an extraordinary amount, I found Red Dog to be very sentimental and overly saccharine. The way it pulled on my heart strings was formulaic, though yes, of course I cried. But it was a hollow cry, I felt cheap and manipulated afterward. There was no catharsis, and the emotion had no depth. I was irritated by so much in the writing that I don’t feel like Red Dog deserved to be cried at.

Even though much of what happened in Red Dog is based on real events which happened to a real dog, and I knew this at the time, I just couldn’t quite believe in the movie. The ending in particular was hugely cloying. Perhaps because it’s a movie aimed squarely at the family market, Stenders has tied everything with a big, happy bow.

The epilogue of the film, a year or so later than the ‘ending’ irked me to no end, where Thomas gives Nancy a Red Kelpie puppy. Stenders has just spent 90 minutes telling us how great Red Dog was, how special, how unique. By presenting a replacement at the end like it’s no big deal, Stenders diminishes the entire film that he’s just made. The whole point seemed to be that Red Dog was irreplaceable, until he was replaced.

It is a family film, and I can understand Stenders not wanting to end on a downer, but wrapping things up so neatly seems contrived and unnecessary.

I was disappointed by Red Dog. The magic of the real life legend didn’t translate to screen, and instead it felt flat, fake, and not worthy of my tears.

Red Dog

Frances Taylor

Frances Taylor

Frances likes words and pictures, regardless of media. She finds great comfort and escape in film, and is attracted to anything character-driven with a strong story. Through these stories, she will find meaning in the world. Three movies that Frances thinks are really good for this are You and Me and Everyone We Know (Miranda July), I’m A Cyborg, But That’s OK (Chan-Wook Park), and How I Ended This Summer (Alexei Popogrebsky).

When Frances grows up, she would like to write words and make pictures and have cool people recognise her on the street and tell her that they really enjoy her work.

She can be found overreacting and over-caffeinated on Twitter @penny_face, a childhood moniker from her grandmother owing to her gloriously round face.

© 2012 STATIC MASS EMPORIUM . All Rights Reserved. Powered by METATEMPUS | creative.timeless.personal.   |   DISCLAIMER, TERMS & CONDITIONS