Red DogReview by David Stratton Rated PG
Tom, LUKE FORD, arrives at Dampier, centre of a huge mining operation in Australia's north-west. He discovers that a dog is sick and may have to be put down, but he can't understand why everyone's so concerned about it. The locals, including barman Jack, NOAH TAYLOR, tell him the story of the dog - how it was first seen some years earlier, how it hitched rides with people it liked and how it eventually attached itself to an American, John Grant, JOSH LUCAS, who soon after fell in love with Nancy, RACHAEL TAYLOR, who worked as a secretary for the mining company.
Initial misgivings about a film partly financed by mining giant Rio Tinto, and which therefore not surprisingly presents a very glowing view of a mining community in the Top End, soon evaporate thanks to the genuineness of this emotion-charged story of a dog that wormed its way into the hearts of a great many people - the fact that this is based on a true story makes it all the better. The dog itself, played by a woofer named Koko, is a great central character, and the humans are good value, too.
It was a lovely idea to cast LOENE CARMEN as Jack, the barman's partner, given that Carmen and Noah Taylor co-starred back in 1987 in the classic Australian film, THE YEAR MY VOICE BROKE, and it's also great to see the late BILL HUNTER in a small part. Terrific, too, are Arthur Angel, as an Italian from Abruzzi, and Keisha
Castle-Hughes as the nurse with whom he falls in love. But, apart from Koko himself, the star of the film is Dampier and the area around it, which has been lovingly photographed by Geoffrey Hall.
I was very disappointed by director Kriv Stenders' last film, LUCKY COUNTRY, but RED DOG makes up for it - it's hugely entertaining.
Further commentsDAVID: Margaret?
MARGARET: It is indeed a lovely Australian film and I've been ranting and raving lately about Australians not going to Australian films...
DAVID: You have.
MARGARET: ...and if they don't go to this one there's something very wrong, because this is so lovely. It celebrates the Australian spirit in a really beautiful way. It's funny. It's moving. I hate to tell you, I bawled my eyes out at the end of it and, it's sort of like, okay, you react against going to certain Australian films. Don't react against this one. This is lovely. It will pay off for everybody what you want from a movie. You want to be moved. You want to be entertained. You want to laugh. You've going to get all of that in this, and the dog is a winner. He's gorgeous.
DAVID: He is. And it's a film in the tradition of films that have, in the past, been very, very popular. Films like GREYFRIARS BOBBY and LASSIE COME HOME, films about the loyalty of dogs for their masters, which is a wonderful theme, I think.
MARGARET: But also that lovely laconic, individualistic spirit of...
DAVID: Of the dog?
MARGARET: ... this melting pot of Australia, and taking the piss like blokes do. There's something very celebratory about this film that I really, really responded to.
DAVID: Me too. I liked it. It's just a pity it didn't get screenings during school holidays, because it's a film the whole family could go and see and enjoy and they should.
MARGARET: It's absolutely a family film.
DAVID: Yes. Yes.
MARGARET: Look, I'm giving it four stars. I liked it so much.
DAVID: I loved it. I'm giving it four and a half.