Review by Camden Ferrell
Dogs is a Romanian drama that premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section. It is the feature directorial debut of writer and director Bogdan Mirică. At its premiere it won the FIPRESCI Prize. The movie has a visually pleasing atmosphere with some interesting moments, but its sloppy narrative and emotionless script make this drama feel rather dull.
Roman has just been bequeathed land from his late grandfather. As he tries to sell off the land, he learns the means by which it came into possession of his family. He slowly uncovers this perilous mystery and learns why selling this land will be more difficult than he thought. After continuous danger ensues, Roman must decide how to approach this situation. It’s an interesting premise that explores some timely themes and has the promise to be quite suspenseful.
Unfortunately, Mirică’s script is rather uninspired and dull. The dialogue is stale and doesn’t do much to develop its cast of characters. It doesn’t give the viewer a reason to empathize or care about anyone, and it doesn’t do enough to build-up the drama and suspense that its premise affords it. Despite this, the movie has some striking visuals. It begins with a hauntingly sinister tracking shot that promises much, but it soon becomes obvious that the atmosphere and widescreen cinematography is the film’s only commendable aspect.
Dragos Bucur leads the film as Roman. He does a decent enough job of leading the film, but he’s severely held back by the quality of the film’s script. His supporting cast features a lot of titans of Romanian cinema, but their presence didn’t do much to grab my attention, and they merely floated around until the film ultimately ended.
Even though the film lacks in a lot of aspects, you can’t deny that Mirică has a vision to which he is strongly committed. His execution leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s confident if nothing else. It opts for longer more meditative takes, and he sometimes gets close to striking gold, but he makes some questionable directorial choices that scramble the narrative and pacing. This culminates in a bloody final act that doesn’t feel warranted or earned, and it feels underwhelming more than anything.
Dogs doesn’t satisfy the way one hopes it would. It’s a great premise with themes about class and corruption that aren’t fully realized. It has a strong vision and a great atmosphere, but it ultimately falls flat in almost all other categories.
Dogs is in theaters and virtual cinemas September 10.