AccessReel Reviews – Red Dog

AccessReel Reviews – Red Dog

Based on the legendary true story of the Red Dog who united a disparate local community in the 1970s. No one is Red Dog’s master until he meets John, an American traveller. 

The movie adaptation of Louis de Bernières 2002 novel Red Dog is about to arrive in our cinemas. The novel fictionalises a real Red Cloud Kelpie who wandered the Pilbara region of Western Australia in the 1970s. Director Kriv Stenders and producer Nelson Woss have made a feel good movie about this very Australian character. 

The story covers a lot of Western Australia’s north, but most time is spent in Dampier. Red Dog is found either at the pub or around the mining operations. The population is largely male and come from all over the country and all over the world. Much as today, those who are drawn to this kind of work are people who are sacrificing the niceties of city living for the chance to make the big money. The film says this tough, male community needed Red Dog to bring some joy and affection into it.

Red Dog is a family movie in essence. The movie is aimed squarely at the heart, but it gets there using a lot of broad, crowd-pleasing humour. There is plenty of fighting, falling over and fart gags, but as bright and light as some of these folk are, there is an acknowledgement–mostly through the character of Jocko (Rohan Nichol)–that he and a number of others are in the north-west escaping their pasts.

The film has some solid talent. Josh Lucas and Rachael Taylor make an attractive pair of romantic leads. John Batchelor (SEA PATROL) has a supporting part as the mustachioed Peeto and lately seems to have a lock on traditional Aussie male roles. For those who remember 1987’s THE YEAR MY VOICE BROKE it is a pleasure seeing Noah Taylor and Loene Carmen on screen together. There is a brief cameo from the late Bill Hunter in the second half and I felt the cinema go quiet as the audience recognised the veteran actor. 

Naturally, the star of the show is Koko, the gorgeous kelpie trained by Luke Hura. Koko learnt 60 different commands for the film. It has to be said, Koko is also lit as beautifully as any movie star. Cinematographer Geoffrey Hall delivers a series of dazzling images that gives the film a slightly dreamy quality at times. 

RED DOG is an entertainment that wears its heritage with pride. It harks back to Australian films like Dusty and They’re A Weird Mob. It’s not a movie for audiences looking for subtle characters and sophisticated ruminations on the human condition. Director Stenders has created a knockabout, larrikin, “meat and potatoes” film that is aimed at the widest audience possible. The makers of RED DOG clearly want gran, the kids and everyone in between to buy a ticket. 

RED DOG is in cinemas from Thursday August 4. It runs for 92 minutes. I rated it 3.5/5.

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