Fantastic Fest 2023: DOGMAN

One of the secret screenings at Fantastic Fest 2023 was the latest film by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, Leon: The Professional). DogMan is a wild and exciting film at times, but when reflecting upon all that it has to offer, it is a rather messy affair. Besson, who also wrote the screenplay, delivers a compelling story full of bold ideas and some choices that don’t make sense. I feel that this latest movie by Luc Besson will polarize audiences, but it has the opportunity to achieve cult status.

The movie follows the bizarre story of Douglas Munrow (Caleb Landry Jones), a young man who was raised in a very abusive family, whose father and older sibling raised dogs for fighting. As a child, Doug always felt sympathy for the dogs, as they also suffered the abuse delivered by his father and brother. This background would send Doug on a strange path as he would become someone who adopts stray dogs and “trains” them to right the wrongs he would witness throughout his life.

As usual, I had to limit what I could reveal about the movie because DogMan is one of those films that should be experienced with as little preparation or expectations as possible. As I stated above, Besson has many crazy ideas for his story, and not all of them work here. Still, it is a movie worth experiencing, as it is unique, with lots of entertaining and moving flourishes. I can see why the programmers at Fantastic Fest decided to include this movie as a surprise; this movie is best presented that way.

While this film reflects some bizarre and wild choices from the filmmaker, what helps keep the story grounded and impactful is the incredible performance by Caleb Landry Jones as the DogMan/Doug Munrow. Regardless of how insane this movie gets, Jones fully commits to his character and delivers a career-best turn. His natural charisma and passion for his character are so evident that one can’t help but be moved and intrigued by his journey, even if it doesn’t make complete sense. DogMan is now open in theaters and won’t appeal to all audiences, but it is still a fascinating piece of cinema guaranteed to find a fan base.

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