Review: THE DOG, An Engrossing Look At The Real Guy Behind DOG DAY AFTERNOON

Contributor; Toronto, Canada (@filmfest_ca)
Review: THE DOG, An Engrossing Look At The Real Guy Behind DOG DAY AFTERNOON

Highly entertaining if slightly indulgent, The Dog looks at the life of John Wojtowicz, the man who was portrayed by Al Pacino in Sidney Lumet's classic Dog Day Afternoon.

Wojtowicz is a pretty fascinating guy who crammed more than his share of lives into his time on earth, and we learn from a series of frank and, at times, filthy interviews about his various escapades. To the film's credit, it effectively situates his life within the nascent gay rights movement of the early 70s, showcasing through a series of vintage documentary footage the environment in which the more celebrated events of Dog Day Afternoon took place.

Behind the sensationalistic story of a bank robbery committed so that a man could get his male wife a sex-change operation, The Dog effectively traces the story back to what, at the time, was a near preposterous move, the attempt to solidify gay marriage as a socially acceptable act. Simply as a document for how much has changed in the four decades since, with the onslaught of AIDS and the growing acceptance for the rights of the LGBT community in the US, the film grants us unique and highly provocative access into the early days that set these events in motion.

The documentary allows John to tell his story his way, while we meet a number of other key players in his life that tell the tale with equal frankness, if occasionally under a mask of self-delusion.

Sure, the talking-head motif gets a bit tiresome as the film runs on, especially as the inevitable wind-down after the events of the bank robbery take place, but there's still enough provocative stuff in the back half to keep things interesting. For such a larger-than-life character, there's a lot to take in, yet directors Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren do a reasonable job at keeping things on an even keel and not slipping into aggrandizement or myth-making.

No one from the fictional world of Dog Day Afternoon provides comment, which might be a disappointment to some, but Wojtowicz 's own explicit take is sufficiently entertaining to sustain the work. Even if The Dog is destined to be "merely" a Blu-ray supplement, it would certainly make for an excellent companion to one of the great films of all time.

A fascinating if perhaps flawed look at John Wojtowicz , the film nonetheless is an engrossing and at times revelatory look at this larger-than-life character.

Review originally published in slightly different form during the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2013. The film opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, August 8, and will expand to select cities thereafter. Visit Drafthouse Films for more information.

The Dog

  • David Millett
  • David Millett
  • Kate Greenwood
  • Stephen Laferriere
  • Finn MacCumhail Lyons
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Allison BergDog Day AfternoonDrafthouse FilmsFrank KeraudrenJohn WojtowiczDavid MillettKate GreenwoodStephen LaferriereFinn MacCumhail LyonsShortDrama

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