Over the last few years the neo-western has become a popular genre. From Hell or High Water and Sicario, to No Country For Old Men, Logan and even Clint Eastwood’s latest Cry Macho, the genre takes the classic western storyline and updates it by moving it and its characters to modern times. Dogs is the latest addition to the genre and it doesn’t quite reach the mark of the aforementioned films.
Dogs follows the story of Roman (Dragos Bucur), a city boy who is lured to the countryside after the death of his grandfather. He inherited a large amount of land which he intends to sell so he can go home with some extra cash in his pocket. But things don’t go the way he expects. He finds out that his grandfather was the head of a local crime organization. And that his late grandfather used the land for criminal activities of all kinds. This includes the murder and disfigurement of individuals who cross them. The local authorities turn a blind eye to most of the activities, and warn Roman he should just go home and forget all about his inheritance. Unwilling to do so, Roman decides to stand and fight, but it’s a fight he quickly discovers he may not be able to win.
Dogs has a very similar look and feel to some of the earlier mentioned films, but it doesn’t have the same heart as them. It’s hard to get behind Roman. Others warn him time and time again about the danger he faces. Despite those warnings, he refuses to let it go because he wants the money. It would be a different story if he had more than a ramshackle house surrounded by a barbed wire fence. And if he had a mangy mutt to defend him, but he doesn’t. Dogs biggest problem though isn’t the lack of a plausible story, but instead the director’s filmmaking choices. The film tries too hard to be stylistic, with slow drawn out shots at odd angles. What should take ten to thirty seconds to show, takes minutes instead. It makes you want to hit the fast forward button to speed things up.
On the whole Dogs isn’t a bad film, it just doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It tells the same old story of a stubborn fool who pays for his character flaws. These types of characters though are better as secondary characters and not the leads. Without a character you can sympathize with you might be asking yourself ‘why do I care’? This makes the slow, stylistic neo-western harder to watch. That being said, the film does still have it’s entertaining moments that keep you interested enough to stay with it to the end.