‘Dogman 2023’ Review: Has Luc Besson Regained His Groove?

The debate over whether Luc Besson has rediscovered his creative flair is bound to irk those who argue against the notion of anyone owning a creative groove in the first place. Besson himself might argue that box office success should be the sole measure of groove restoration. Nevertheless, his latest offering, a peculiar and dark drama-thriller, proves to be quite watchable, with Caleb Landry Jones delivering an oddly captivating performance as Douglas Munrow, a wheelchair-bound individual known as Dogman.

Munrow finds himself under scrutiny by police psychologist Evelyn (played by Jojo T. Gibbs) after being apprehended dressed in full-drag attire, smeared with blood while driving a van filled with his beloved “babies” – his dogs.

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Through Munrow’s conversations with Evelyn, viewers are taken on a journey through his troubled past. Flashbacks reveal a childhood spent confined to a dog kennel by an abusive father, resulting in a horrific injury. His teenage years in a children’s home bring poignant moments, particularly his introduction to poetry by a drama student, who eventually disappears without a word, leaving him heartbroken.

As an adult, Munrow lands a grim job at a dog pound, where he trains his canine charges to carry out thefts in some ludicrously far-fetched heist scenes. On weekends, he even takes the stage in drag as iconic figures like Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich. It’s a bizarre film indeed – and one wonders whether Besson’s belief in the continued use of traditional jail cell keys in US prisons is accurate, given the prevalence of modern electronic systems.

Dogman 2023 Review
Image Courtesy: MUBI

Despite its oddities, the film manages to amuse, transitioning from the spirit of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ to that of ‘Hannibal Lecter.’ The sight of dogs of all shapes and sizes darting through the streets adds a touch of humour rather than terror – a spectacle reminiscent of Kornél Mundruczó’s film ‘White God.’

While ‘Dogman’ may be shallow and carefree, ultimately amounting to very little, it’s executed with flair and style, leaving a lasting impression.