Opening 12 Oct 2023
French director-writer Luc Besson’s English-language drama DogMan’s bark is worse than its bite regarding its violence is more of tone, texture, and terrorizing. Caleb Landry Jones’s portrayal of Douglas is stunning: poignant, sensuous, soulful, enduring. A rich character study of a browbeaten kid and a family that personifies dysfunction. Clemens Schick plays his dad Mike, the complete opposite of Doug, and the embodiment of evil who activates Doug’s journey into Dogman. Elder brother Richard, Alexander Settineri, delights in provoking and then aiding daddy’s meanness posturing behind the façade of righteous religious fervor.
Doug’s life story unfolds in three different time periods, distant past, present, and past present that audiences can clearly follow thanks to Julien Rey’s extraordinary editing prowess, even when time-periods switch in the blink of an eye. Doug is obviously intelligent from exchanges with people, and his actions portray a realist. Lincoln Powell’s remarkable performance as the young Douglas whose boldness against dad, ignoring his cringing mom’s warnings, lands him quite literally in the dog pen. Adding to the character mix that enter and exit Doug’s life, always making an impression whereby he easily judges their character, are Salma (Grace Palma), a mentor and Shakespearean fan, and Evelyn (Jojo T. Gibbs), a good listener and criminal psychiatrist. Doug metamorphoses into a chameleon-like drag-performer, lip-synching Edith Piaf, Marlene Dietrich, and Marilyn Monroe—Jones’ renditions are astounding—and captivating fellow drag entertainers Adam Speers, Emeric Bernard-Jones, et al. His involvement in the redistribution of wealth introduces insurance adjustor Christopher Denham as Ackerman, and gangster John Charles Aguilar.
And then, of course, there is the cast of Dogman’s family, from pure breeds to the “Heinze 57” mutts, with all delivering barkingly good performances. Kudos to the patience and persistence of animal trainers working with “man’s best friends.” Stellar production values enrich audiences’ experience: Colin Wandersman’s cinematography, Hugues Tissandier’s production design, and Eric Serra’s music.
The comparisons between humans and the animal kingdom are astute. Juggling his perceptive understanding for humans’ capacity for cruelty, and kindness, retribution and love, Bresson deftly maintains a delicate balance. Dogman projects a man at peace with himself, and his family, we sense, and is following his predetermined plan. DogMan is truly a must-see film. (Marinell Haegelin)