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DogMan is a new thriller by visionary Luc Besson that has to be experienced in a certain way. First of all, it’s good to know Besson. He gave us The Fifth Element and Lucy, and those two movies are out-of-the-box as far as mainstream cinema is concerned. They are edgy and fantastical at the same time. DogMan has something of this kind in it too. The film starts off a little bonkers so remember that before you go in (to the theater). And with this in mind, it shouldn’t bother you (much) that you watched a very trippy story of reclamation which tells the tale about how far one man would go for justice.

However, without Caleb Landry Jones (X-Men: First Class, Get Out, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), DogMan wouldn’t have been what it is today –with him playing Douglas- a messed up guy who managed to survive his abusive past and turned himself into something else entirely different. Jones gives the most thrilling performances of this year; even though no insiders will see these worthy performances as they should be seen. It may not meet conventional Oscar standards but Emma Stone won gold for playing an even more over-the-top character than Landry did here; hence he deserves some credit here. Watch for Landry, then pay attention to details.

Through flashbacks we see Douglas from prison questioning room back through his childhood years…to where he currently stands now…and how did he become so vengeful through dogs’ support? In fact, many dogs like them do exist there. If you enjoy avant-garde and gritty films with eccentric main characters at their core – and can give this movie some time to win you over – DogMan is doggone fun! Let’s unwrap it further.

However, a partial inspiration for DogMan was an article that Luc Besson read on a French family who caged their own child at age five. Besson wondered how this would affect someone mentally and set out to write and direct DogMan, an exploration of universal suffering and love. In Douglas Munrow’s case, the love comes from his strange relationship with a pack of dogs.

Douglas is first seen driving a truck carrying what looks like a wild dog pack in the backseat. And Douglas is portrayed as being in drag—a blond wig very Marilyn-like—making us wonder if this film is about a tortured female impersonator? Yes and no (more on that later). When he gets stopped by police, Douglas remains calm but smirks knowingly. Evelyn (JoJo T. Gibbs), the court-appointed psychologist, starts interrogating Douglas who reveals more about himself through these interviews and explains how he made such strong connections with canines.

Underneath a tyrannous father (Clemens Schick) who was abusive, we guess that Douglas stayed within years of locked door walls full of dogs; his older brother (Lincoln Powell) being a brown-nosing bully doesn’t help either but then providence steps into Douglas’ situation to present him suddenly with an opportunity for escape. But it comes at a cost- no movement possible.

Douglas is also suddenly in a wheelchair with limited walking abilities and he realizes who his true loved ones—and most loyal means of support—are. Dogs. To this film, there’s something delightfully absurdistic about it that requires some suspension of belief—or not—when Douglas’ dogs show just how much they understand him as their human friend. We “got” it. Whether audiences will remains to be seen, but it’s hard to deny just how close our connections to our four-legged pals can actually be.

The movie is also saved by DogMan inserting an appropriate B story—not mawkish thankfully—concerning a single mother, Evelyn, who herself had been looked after by the authoritarian father—a far softer hand than Caleb’s brutal “caregiver.” This subplot provides the film with a sense of reality which makes us able to see for ourselves what happened to Caleb through Evelyn piecing together why Douglas was sat before her now. Here JoJo T. Gibbs, who stood out in comedic Twenties, goes serious and exhibits empathy towards Douglas that make us want to invest more in the character and this story.

What about Douglas? Watching Caleb Landry Jones reminds one of Heath Ledger’s fever-dreamy portrayal of The Joker in The Dark Knight. You never know what comes next – the whimsy, the knowing smile; the calm yet mysterious eyes; or all three combined in a scene like this one possibly could be nothing other than comic genius? Luc Besson gives us an unforgettable character.

As fate would have it, we learn that adult Douglas stumbled into drag singing when looking for work. Ultimately though, Music was like dogs weren’t they? And so here the movie tonally shifts awhile as Douglas croons for money. Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose has never been so richly captured or performed.

In addition to this, there are some gritty criminal antics happening on the streets and maybe Douglas is the Batman of this place. Of course, situations come to a boil. Criminals reveal themselves. Wounds from daddy-issues that have not yet healed plus an insatiable thirst for revenge make Douglas to derive pleasure out of arranging several bizarre but practical ways of guarding just.

Break-ins, machine guns, trick doors, uber-sentient doggies knowing just what to do—oh my! It’s like a warped 101 Dalmatians by way of a fallen DC hero. And wicked fun. If… you allow yourself to just float along and see where this surreal tale wants to take you. It also illuminates how a tragic aftermath in one’s life can play out in absurd twists.

Caleb Landry Jones’s tour de force performance propels it alongside being inventive and offbeat. We should also give these canines credit, too. Sometimes they know how to patrol with their jaws locking on your crotch or more appropriate places on your body parts. I could imagine Luc Besson going through all the trouble with dog trainers and almost 150 dogs running around in scenes like that one above somewhere else in the world. By the looks of it, these canines got down their cues. Bottom line: DogMan is devilishly fun, and Caleb Landry Jones commands the screen

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