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THE DOGS OF WAR (1981) **

Christopher Walken stars as Shannon, a laconic mercenary who is hired to do some reconnaissance work in a shit hole African nation.  Posing as a birdwatcher (!) he takes photos and gathers the information necessary to overthrow the Amin-like dictator.  When Shannon gets caught taking sensitive photos, he gets roughed up by the secret police and is sent back to the States.  Once home, he gets offered a big payday to lead a rebel freedom force on a siege to oust the scummy dictator.  Naturally Shannon agrees, mostly because if he didn’t, then it wouldn’t be an action movie.

 

Although The Dogs of War moves at a deliberate pace, it will undoubtedly be rewarding for some viewers out there.  I can see why someone would dig this movie because it shows you the intricate ins and outs of what it takes to remove an insane dictator from power.  Seriously, if you ever want to plan a coup d’etat on a foreign nation, just watch this flick.  It’s basically Staging a Military Coup for Dummies. 

 

This doesn’t necessarily make it fun to watch though.  John (Raw Deal) Irvin’s direction is meticulous to a fault.  Three quarters of the movie is dedicated to Walken’s endless preparation for the assault on the dictator with only the last twenty minutes or so being devoted to the actual attack.  The flick also comes up woefully short in the machismo department.  Take for example the scene where Walken tortures a guy by putting glass in his mouth and slapping him around.  Sure, this sounds good on paper, but once the glass is in the guy’s mouth, Irvin never cuts back to the dude’s face and we never get to see any blood or anything.  Weak.

 

Walken is good but his character is too emotionally aloof for you to really give a shit about him.  Like most mercenaries, all he cares about is money (and himself), so his character is always at arm’s length from the audience.  Some hero.  Still, if you want to see Walken acting before he became a caricature of himself, this is as good a place as any to look.  Tom Berenger, JoBeth Williams and Ed O’Neil also pop up in capably acted supporting roles, although neither of them gets enough screen time to make much of an impression.

 

Irvin returned later in the year with Ghost Story.

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