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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

THE DOG Review

John Wojtowicz in THE DOG
Courtesy of Drafthouse Films
2014, 100 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

"I'm like Babe Ruth, but I'm the gay Babe Ruth. I hit a home run, right?  I hit a home run.  Know why I hit a home run?  'Cause I beat the fuckin' system," brags John Wojtowicz in Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren's The Dog.  The Dog is yet another doc that proves that the truth is always stranger than fiction.  The film tells the story of John Wojtowicz, a man who robbed a bank in 1972 to pay for his lover's sex change operation.  His story was immortalized in the 1975 classic, Dog Day Afternoon.  Dog Day Afternoon's story is crazy, but it is nothing compared to the real story of John Wojtowicz (portrayed by Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon).

John Wojtowicz is the best kind of documentary subject because he's egotistical to the extreme, disgusting, obsessive, yet magnetic.  Wojtowicz' ego is so big it's frightening.  He makes it clear that he thinks that robbing the bank was the right thing to do.  He also makes it clear that he wants to be in charge of everything and that if he isn't, he will take charge.  And he is in charge of this film.  This is his story and very few other perspectives get in.  However, when they do, it's fascinating and reveals Wojtowicz to be a classic unreliable narrator.

The Dog isn't a showy film.  It's production values are very modest, but that's part of this movie's charm and genius.  This is a movie that lets its crazed subject do the talking.  Berg and Keraudren don't need to dress this movie up because their subject and his story is the best production value they could ever get.  Even if half of what Wojtowicz says in this film is a flat-out lie, it's so riveting to hear him tell stories that it does not matter.

In addition to everything else, The Dog is a comment on celebrity culture in America.  Wojtowicz became a celebrity of sorts because of Dog Day Afternoon.  This is disturbing, as Wojtowicz is not what you would call a good role model or someone that should be celebrated.  His becoming a celebrity says a lot about the people we celebrate.  In this case, the man that was celebrated was a criminal.  Much has been said about the twisted nature of our celebrity culture, and this film really gives it a first-hand look.

Overall, The Dog is an excellent doc that will satisfy just about everyone.  If you love Dog Day Afternoon, this movie will be especially impactful, but if you haven't seen Dog Day, you'll walk out of The Dog with two great things: an awesome movie that you need to see immediately and a great experience at the movie theater.


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