NETFLIX — When a bank heist goes wrong, four mysterious thugs are forced to take hostages… but not everything (or everyone) is as it seems.
RABID DOGS is a remake of the mid-seventies film of the same name by Italian director, Mario Bava. Originally set in Italy, this incarnation takes place in France, and while there are several scenes depicting the beauty of the quaint French countryside, and its colorful inhabitants–DOGS is all about delivering relentless ferocity and paranoia, and it works… some of the time.
Director, Eric Hannezo, does a great job of creating tone and energy here. Once the action starts, it very rarely stops to take a breath. While this makes for a fairly exciting road trip thriller, it does hinder our ability to really get to know the characters. Each of the bank robbers come with some stylish flashbacks that hint at something really interesting and nefarious things that lead them to where they are now, but it’s only briefly introduced and then never touched on again. This sort of half-hearted setup only left me wanting more… in a very unsatisfied way.
The hostages don’t fair much better. The female hostage is woefully underdeveloped, and pretty much used as your stereotypical damsel in distress. I’m not staunch feminist, but even I can see that this is an outdated trope that could really use an overhaul. The male hostage, and his daughter, are also sort of just glossed over. We are given a brief peek at both hostage characters prior to their becoming hostages, but after that they’re merely there to be bossed around and tortured by the bank robbers.
If there had been a greater emphasis on setting these characters up, and making them more relatable, I could very easily see this film being a modern day classic. However, because they are so paper thin, everything that happens as a result of their actions throughout the film just falls flat, which is a shame.
My criticism of the lack of character depth does not reflect my feeling toward the acting, however. The entire cast does a wonderful job doing the very best with what they’re given to work with. Lambert Wilson as “The Man” exudes a great pensive stoicism feeling every bit the nervous father of a very sick little girl. Guillaume Gouix has moments, as defacto leader Sabri, where he appears like he’s about to crack and reflect a real human being in over his head, and those moments are so great. Francois Arnaud is chilling in his truly villainous role of Vincent.
The performances that fair the least would be those of Franck Gastambide as Manu, and Virginie Ledoyen as The Woman. Franck (as Manu) is the only character that has an arc in the film–which is more like a sharp 90 degree angle. His turn is so quick that it really feels out of left field. Virginie’s character is just a victim, pure and simple. She brings very little to the film overall, and merely serves as a tool to make Vincent and the other robbers look horrific.
While I did walk away from this film initially digging it for its energy and tone, the more time that passes, the less I like it, and the less I’m likely to recommend it to serious film fans. It’s a great one-off romp if you know someone who likes those sorts of things, but nothing much of value to sink your teeth into otherwise. I’ve never seen the original, so I don’t know if there were any extra liberties taken with the original source material here, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t. The entire setup and execution feels very “by the numbers” and could have really benefited from a good trope shake-up–especially if you’re hoping to subvert expectations, which a lot of this film is trying to do.
FYI — I see you Kurgan!