Pride of Town
Today's GV surprise screening wasn't what I had expected, and I mean that in a good way. At first I thought it was going to be one of those rom-coms slated for screening later this month or year, but what got put out was way, way better than expected, even though it started a little slow and bewildering (unlike most other surprise screenings where one can guess what it will be), Red Dog was more than worth the price of the discounted ticket, an Australian film set in the 70s Western Australia in a small mining town based upon a folklore that surpasses almost every conventional dog related cinematic tale put out especially by Hollywood in recent years.
A trucker (Luke Ford) drives into town and pit stops at a bar, only to find a couple of burly men pining a dog down, with the sheriff about to pull the trigger, but for the trucker's intervention to put off their plan. Slowly but surely for any stranger riding into a new land, the townsfolk soon grow in numbers, as everyone started to pour in to the bar to seemingly pay tribute to the dog, christened Red Dog by everyone, with the narrative unveiling itself in episodic flashback nature with characters taking turns to tell their version and stories of how the dog impacted their lives and the lives of the mining town, and how the town got changed through their canine friend. These stories span a spectrum of emotions, and can be a simple, short scene, or an extended one especially when involving the principal characters of the film
Directed by Kriv Stenders, the film has its fair share of quirky characters and comedic situations, being funny without really trying too hard, go over the top or feeling too contrived. Everything felt as natural as can be, with excellent pacing to allow Red Dog to slowly grow on you. The tried, tested and tired route Hollywood typically takes is to load plenty of saccharine sweet, cutesy moments to deliberate tug at your heartstrings, which is why this Australian film is that fantastic breath of fresh air as it busts genre conventions, yet possessing enough pathos to lift the film into its emotional plateau, pulling you into the rowdy though genuinely sincere lifestyle the miners lead.
As for star power, Josh Lucas stars as the wanderer turned bus driver John who becomes the one and only de-facto owner of Red Dog as they form a loyal master-dog relationship, with Rachael Taylor (of Transformers fame) playing Nancy his love interest whom he met while serving the community, and she getting into a tussle with Red Dog on his bus. Their romance will form the crux which the story will revolve around briefly, although there are other stories which I enjoyed such as how Red Dog got into assisting an Italian miner Vanno (Arthur Angel) go after a nurse (Keisha Castle-Hughes), and a heart-wrenching moment involving the themes of loyalty and longing.
With an awesome soundtrack and beautifully filmed outback landscapes that captures the conditions of the mining town in very picturesque language, you'll laugh, you'll cry and you'll be moved by the time the movie pulls into its final reel. Now all that remains is for this film to find a proper theatrical release so that it can be watched, experienced and loved by a wider audience that it truly deserves. There may be famous dogs like Lassie in the US and Hachiko in Japan, so do add one to that list with Red Dog from Australia. Definitely in my highly recommended list as it goes into my books with the potential of being one of the best seen in this year, leaving its genre peers clearly in its wake.
Red Dog is slated for a 6 October release in Singapore, watch for it!