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Red Dog - Review

Red Dog

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

RED Dog, like Richard Gere vehicle Hachi and Greyfriars Bobby, is a film based upon a true story of a fiercely loyal dog. Like both of those movies it ticks a certain amount of boxes and is geared towards making you cry. Unlike those two movies, it somehow doesn’t feel as contrived.

Also based upon the novella by Louis de Bernieres, who was inspired by the real-life tale of the Kelpie that became legend following his exploits in Western Australia’s Pilbara region in the ‘70s, Red Dog is both a heart-warmer and a heart-breaker.

Directed by Kriv Stenders, it follows the fortunes of a dog (played by Koko) who befriends the rough and ready members of a small mining community and eventually brings them together. In doing so, he also finds his one-true master (Josh Lucas)… and following a tragic accident roams Western Australia searching for him.

Admittedly, there is a sense of inevitability surrounding the movie, particularly if you know the legend, but Stenders’ keeps things interesting (and mostly jolly) by vividly recreating the small Pilbara community that took Red Dog in.

His film harks back to a more dangerous Australia, where men were men and often took risks to prove that was the case, and where Red Dog himself didn’t just soppily crave their affections but often played them against one another.

As such, the film also works hard to win our affections, only slowly revealing the more delicate emotions under-pinning many of the characters’ journeys. As a result, there are a number of notable performances from the likes of Rohan Nichol, as an introverted miner who is rescued by Red Dog; Noah Taylor, as a thoughtful bartender, and Rachael Taylor, as a love interest.

Lucas, too, brings his trademark charisma and an easy-going nature that means he is missed once fate intervenes on behalf of his character.

Koko, meanwhile, delivers another canine performance to rival that of The Artist’s Uggie – one that doesn’t just play for cuteness but rather maintains his own independence and iron will.

Put together, they help to create a charming movie that will eventually tug at the heart-strings as well as forcing viewers to battle back those tears. And that’s despite a somewhat contrived ending that opts for a more Hollywood-style closure than what really happened. By that time, though, Red Dog has earned its place in your affection.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 88mins
UK Release Date: February 24, 2012