Review: Red Dog (2011)

Based on the Louis de Bernières’ book of the same name, which in turn is based on a true story, Red Dog proves how excellent man’s best friend can be

Based on the Louis de Bernières’ book of the same name, which in turn is based on a true story, Red Dog proves how excellent man’s best friend can be.

It’s the late 1970s and engineers from all over the world are rushing to Australia’s scorching outback to work the mines and make some big bucks. It’s a desolate place, it’s tough work and, if the legends are to be believed, the sun will drive you mad enough to speak Chinese for two days straight, even if you’ve never spoken it before.

It’s said that Louis de Bernières decided to write his book after he walked into the mining town of Dampier in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. He was intrigued as to why there was a bronze statue of a dog to greet visitors. He was simply told (puts on Aussie accent) ‘ah that’s Red Dog, Australia’s most famous dog’. He then heard from everyone how this dog saved lives, got couples together and hitched rides all over Australia.

The film starts with a trucker stopping in the town to make a delivery and heading to the pub for a pint, he finds some of the locals treating Red Dog (Koko) for poisoning in the pub’s kitchen – it’s the Aussie outback remember. As he enquires about the dog, we are taken through several flashbacks as the locals talk of the legend of Red Dog and how he affected their lives and what he did for each of them and how he came to meet his one true master John Grant (Josh Lucas).

Red Dog is perplexed when John, the mining company’s bus driver, refuses to let him hitch a ride. Not being able to win over someone with a cute look and a whine clearly has Red Dog stumped, but when John rescues him from a game of ‘let’s see if Red Dog can eat a live chicken’, that some drunks are trying to get him to play, an unbreakable bond is formed.

Of course, there has to be a love story as a film about a man living in the outback with a dog as his only mate would just be weird, so in steps the beautiful Nancy Grey (Rachael Taylor) who immediately has everyone trying to win her affection, except, of course, Red Dog, who notices right away that his master is drawn to her and makes his frustration known with smelly and hilarious consequences.

When thinking about if this film was any good we didn’t want our love of dogs to influence our judgement, so being honest we genuinely do really think it is very good. The Aussie outback is captured on screen perfectly, it has a great sense of humour running all the way through it, a brilliant soundtrack of 1970’s Aussie rock and it is simply wonderful in a way that only Australian cinema seems to be capable of.

The characters are much larger than life and so varied that everyone will identify with at least one and there’s an emotional attachment to Red Dog that you won’t be able to resist, dog lover or not.

As this film is about an animal, you don’t need a degree in rocket science to know your heart stings will be well and truly pulled, but you will find yourself laughing and crying a lot more than you’ll be prepared for and knowing that Red Dog was real increases those smiles and tears even more.

Here’s to a doggy for all but no one in particular.

Best line: ‘Cheeky bugger.’
Best scene: Red Dog at the drive in.

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