Four Years ago, a bizarre little film called Sheitan
made me a
fan of director Kim Chapiron for life. It starred Vincent Cassel as a
demented hillbilly who makes a Faustian deal with the devil in what I
consider to be one of the best horror films of the aughts. I missed its
premiere at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival, but was lucky enough to
discover it on DVD. This year, Chapiron returns to the fest with his
highly anticipated (by me) followup, the hardcore juvie prison drama, Dog
Based on the 1979 Alan Clarke film, Scum
, Dog Pound
jacks its inspiration like a fresh pair of kicks and will fuck you up if
you snitch. Updating the action to present day middle-America, the
loose narrative follows three inmates in a juvenile detention center as
they attempt to keep their heads down and their noses clean.
Easier said than done.
There has been no shortage of quality
prison dramas as of late, what with Hunger
, A Prophet
and even Bronson
, so I wasn't exactly clamoring for another. But
based on what he did with Sheitan
, I was confident Chapiron would
give Dog Pound
a similar unique spin.
Unfortunately, Dog Pound
isn't the reinvention of the genre I
was hoping for. But what it lacks in originality, it makes up for in
authenticity. Chapiron casts the film with actual inmates, many who are
fresh out of jail, many who are already back in. These non-actors bring a
realism to the film that borders on documentary. When lines are crossed
and shit goes down, it is a barely controlled chaos.
Everything else about the film, from the camera work to the set
design, is top notch. Brutal flashes of violence punctuate the thick
layer of tension blanketing the film. It is also quite funny. One scene
in particular, where a young inmate regales his bunk mates with stories
of a May/December sexual encounter, provides a welcomed respite from the
doom and gloom. It is not as funny as the notorious "cold-cut platter"
sequence in Sheitan
, but it comes close.
What keeps this film from being truly great, however, is the script.
It is not until almost thirty minutes into the film that the three
leads emerge as real characters, and even then, they are not developed
equally. The story meanders here and there, functioning more as a slice
of life than a straightforward narrative. It might be a realistic
portrayal of prison life, but does not make for the most satisfying of
But that's not to say Dog Pound
should be viewed as a write
off. Chapiron finishes strong, with a prison riot so audacious, it took
three days to film. If it feels real, it's because it is. It's all there
up on the screen.
has it's flaws, but it's gonna take a lot more than
one weak story to lessen my opinion of Chapiron. He is a talented
director, even when working with lesser material. Get this guy a great
script, and we could very well have a masterpiece on our hands.
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