Hong Kong, 2006: Dog Bite Dog
Gau Ngao Gau
“Dog Bite Dog”
Hong Kong, 2006
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
A young cop tracks down a wild and ruthless hitman through the streets of Hong Kong.
Dog Bite Dog is a perfect example of where a director’s reach is further than his grasp. Attempting to be an edgy and nihilistic view of life on the streets, director Pou-Soi Cheang instead ends up with a bizarre and butchered mess, just shy of becoming self-parody. The production values are fairly solid, although the lighting often left a lot to be desired. Director of photography Yuen Man Fung makes heavy use of stark light and shadow, which works to a degree, but the amount of handheld camera angles quickly becomes annoying. The score is a confusing mix of styles and moods, adding to the sense that Cheang was never quite sure of the kind of movie he was making. The sound designer’s choice to introduce dog snarls to the fight scenes was also painfully unnecessary. Like the rest of the film, so many of the decisions seem ultimately pointless.
As far as story goes, it’s a clever enough plot twist to cap off the ending, but on a whole nothing any of the characters do makes sense. To begin with, it’s almost impossible to identify with any of the leads as a main character or even view them as sympathetic. Without investment in any of the people on screen, the whole story is simply a series of ridiculous choices, each more absurd than the last. It’s as if a high school anarchist stereotype wrote the script just to show people who morally bankrupt our society is. There’s no sense of story or pacing or even character development. Lead actors Edison Chen and Sam Lee switch back and forth between good and evil based solely on the convenience of the plot, destroying any concept of an emotional arc or catharsis. The rest of the cast does their best with the script, but everyone reads like a bad crime drama stereotype. The hard-boiled detectives, the asshole chief, the cowardly informant; these are all parts we’ve seen before in much better movies. There’s simply no consistency of tone or characters, and hardly anything original in the story at all.
The action tries its hardest to be bloody and brutal, and it succeeds. The fights are few, but are surprisingly impressive for their realism and ferocity. There’s lots of blood and cringe-inducing visuals, any gore junkie will surely see this as an instant classic. There’s not much flash or entertainment value to the action beyond that, so tread according to your own tastes. If you’re just cruising for some bruising, this can be a pretty decent flick for the collection, and probably will have better writing than most of the other things there. However, if gun shots and stab wounds aren’t your thing, Dog Bite Dog lacks any other redeeming values for general audiences.
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