DOG SOLDIERS: DVD
A squad of British solders on a training exercise in Scotland led by Sgt Harry Wells (Sean Pertwee) stumbles onto the remains (too literally) of Capt Richard Ryan’s (Liam Cunningham) small team of Special Ops on a secret mission. They soon realise the enemy is all too real, all too terrifying and none too human. They think they’re saved when a young local woman, Megan (Emma Cleasby) picks them up in her jeep and takes them to a lonely farmhouse. They aren’t. Saved, that is.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Strictly for the fang-orians, this attempt to revive the werewolf movie as a genre for the new millennium starts with great promise but bites the dust in a blood-soaked, brainless second half. Opening scenes have genuine grip as the scenario is established, young soldiers in a remote and rugged location, alone…unsure of their moral as well as physical terrain. The sense of foreboding is built with care, and Sam McCurdy’s cinematography is inspired. The underlying premise of the film is vaguely workable, but is soon blotched and blotted by unnecessary extensions. The genre demands less, not more. Act one works dramatically well, a change of style for the genre and a welcome one; here is a gritty and realistic scenario, peopled by credible characters.
The actors take it all quite seriously, even when the script loses the plot, as it were. And McCurdy’s work is soon lost in a frenzied visual acceleration that resorts to frizzy hand held work, married to a sound design that’s pretty old hat. Conscious of the need for excess to divert attention from the silliness of it, Neil Marshall plays the gore card and trumps the genre with a large dose of the splatters. When Peter Jackson does it in a low budget, self-amusing fun flick like Braindead, there is merit in splatter. But Dog Soldiers (unfortunate title, that) is too self important to get away with it. The werewolves (and more than one is another mistake) are merely shadowy creatures, with nothing to lose and no way to be killed. The drama between the soldiers themselves is far more interesting, but not developed. And to make things much worse, Marshall himself not so much edits the film as throws into a blender.
The DVD has a standard set of extras. Elevated by relaxed laddish behaviour and goofy English everyman humour, the cast commentary is unusually chaotic at times, fuelled by hearty laughs and a high level of camaraderie. It’s the best thing on the DVD. (By the way, the audio commentary options are under Set Up, not the Special Features menu.)
There’s something endearingly low-key about cast interviews conducted on the edge of unmade hotel beds (on the set), but that aside, the 20 minute Making of Feature is a predictable collection of press kit interviews filled out with clips from the film.
The deleted scenes feature, with or without Neil Marshall’s commentary, just goes to prove that filmmakers sometimes have to forego even the most worthy material (like character enlargement or insight) for the sake of economy. But sometimes, a scene just doesn’t fit because of a mismatch in the scene that follows. And don’t expect too much from the so called ‘gag reel’. It’s short and only funny on the basis of you had to be there.
The seven interviews with key cast and crew are all presented as soundbites, in other words they are taken from the electronic press kit, so nothing exceptional, but it’s workmanlike.
Marshall’s 7 minute wordless short, Combat, is a good idea and well made, although it’s probably included here more for the relevance of its title than it subject matter.
Published July 24, 2003
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DOG SOLDIERS: DVD (M15+)
CAST: Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Emma Cleasby, Liam Cunningham, Darren Moffit, Chris Robson, Leslie Simpson, Thomas Lockyer
DIRECTOR: Neil Marshall
SCRIPT: Neil Marshall
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
PRESENTATION: 16:9; Dolby 5.1; Dolby 2.0 Surround; HI subtitles
SPECIAL FEATURES: commentary with director and cast; commentary with producers; Making of; interviews with cast and crew; storyboards, cast bios; photo gallery; Combat, short film by Neil Marshall
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
DVD RELEASE: July 23, 2003