DogMan was one of the secret screenings during Fantastic Fest.
Fantastic Fest attendees are constantly speculating as to what could be the next secret screening at the festival. It was unexpected when Luc Besson’s ‘DogMan’ was announced to be making its North American premiere. It was the third secret screening for the Fantastic Fest crowd. The film stars Caleb Landry Jones and almost feels like the origin story for an antihero out of the Sony Marvel-verse. Instead of a simple cash grab, it’s a fascinating character piece with a great performance at the center of it.
In ‘DogMan,’ Caleb Landry Jones plays Douglas, a paraplegic who finds solace in the company of dogs rather than people. Douglas is arrested while in drag and driving a delivery vehicle with dozens of dogs in the back. In an interview with a defense attorney, the story of how he was abused as a child and found salvation through dogs is told in a series of flashbacks.
Douglas’ story is quite outlandish. However, it is told with a sense of self-seriousness that could make it tonally confusing for audiences—said tone worked for me, as it played out like an origin story that could be told in the panes of a comic book. Caleb Landry Jones’ performance is front and center. He plays Douglas with a dramatic earnestness that’s a far cry from the over-the-top manic characters Jones is typically affiliated with. Douglas could technically still be described as over-the-top, but it’s a much more subdued version of extremity.
The dog direction is top-notch, and there are A LOT of dogs in the film.
Douglas truly adores his pups and uses them for various tasks, including alerting police to crimes, threatening criminals, and even burglary. The number of dogs and their conviction on screen was impressive. Luc Besson’s direction is typically at its best when conveying hard sci-fi or action. The appeal of showcasing action mostly performed by dogs was likely an appeal for the French filmmaker.
I give DogMan 3.5 out of 5 stars. It was a pleasant surprise with a potentially career-defining performance from Caleb Landry Jones. It may be divisive, but when viewed through the correct lens, there is an intriguing origin story.