Will try not to spend too long on this one. I have some other things to attend to.
For those who may not be aware from the title alone, this is the debut work of one Bong Joon-ho. For those who don’t know who that is, he’s the director of Parasite, which won Best Picture at last year’s Academy Awards—the first time a foreign film has ever won the award. That put him on the map for people on these (American) shores, but he’s had a long and prominent career up until this point. Barking Dogs Never Bite was his start, all the way back in 2000.
Given my relative lack of history with Joon-ho, I can’t speak definitively on his “style” or body of work after viewing this. I’ve seen Parasite, and that’s it. I’ve heard of his other (English) films, such as Okja and Snowpiercer. This would mark the first time I went out of my way to watch a film directed by him that wasn’t influenced by public discourse. I just wanted to see more from him.
Some of the criticisms I’ve seen attributed here is the lack of substantial information. Things are presented with some themes in place, but don’t really go anywhere. Kind of like a wink every once in a while, in-between genuine development of plot or characters. I agree with this sentiment, and it’s probably my biggest issue. Lots of entertaining shots, scenes, and interactions, only they kind of just exist to be entertaining, I guess?
To not cause any misunderstanding, this isn’t devoid of meaning by any means. One could parse out some things about being a good person, despite not being rewarded for it. Lots of things about dogs, too, that could be taken figuratively. Self-respect and its role on humanity in the face of survival. It’s there, it’s clear, only it’s not entirely cohesive.
Technically speaking, this is pretty sound, I think. Not much I would otherwise change about things such as editing or acting. With that said… I don’t know if there was any character in here I really liked. The male lead’s pretty despicable, while the female lead, though she means well, kind of falls in a trap of “The plot is clearly trying to make her special.” The way the plot treats her is not subtle whatsoever, doing everything it can to keep her grounded. At least she got to go hiking.
Though it’s entertaining most of all. Kind of like a playground of different, weird scenes accompanied by light touches of social commentary. Even in his first attempt, Joon-ho created something rather remarkable. It’s no Parasite, nor is it up to the good favor he’s received for his other films, but it’s pretty solid overall. Would recommend… just be wary of the “No puppies were harmed during the making of this movie” warning in the beginning.
Final Score: 7/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!