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Dogs Of War, The

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    Ian Jane
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  • Dogs Of War, The



    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: September, 2014.
    Director: John Irvin
    Cast: Colin Blakely, Christopher Walken, Tom Berenger, Paul Freeman, JoBeth Williams
    Year: 1980
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    The Movie:

    Directed by John Irvin from the book by Frederick Forsythe, 1980's The Dogs Of War stars Christopher Walken (who had just taken home an Oscar for his work on The Deer Hunter) as a mercenary named James Shannon. Those in charge of a British owned mining company lead by Endean (Hugh Millais) hire him for $15,000.00 to fly to the African country of Zangaro, a country lorded over by a brutal dictator who runs the country with an iron fist.

    Shortly after he arrives, he's captured and accused of being a spy. Subsequently he is tortured and quite harshly beaten before being locked away. While imprisoned he meets Doctor Okoye (Winston Ntshona), a progressive thinker that the government has locked away, lest his political leanings lead to social unrest. Eventually Shannon is released and after flying back to London, offered the chance to put together a team of mercenaries to fly back to Zangaro and take out the leaders in order to pull off a coup. As things have gone from bad to worse with his wife Jessie (JoBeth Williams), he takes the offer.

    This isn't the most inventive 'mercs on a mission' movie ever made but it's well put together and if you enjoy similar stories, almost all of which seem to stem from The Dirty Dozen or one of the various films inspired by it, you'll probably get a kick out of this one too. There are times where, like The Deer Hunter, it goes into dark places, particularly when dealing with the relationship that is obviously crumbling between James and Jessie, and the way in which the film mixes its politics with its take on unscrupulous business types is more than a little heavy handed but this is by most anyone's standards an entertaining film.

    Walken carries the film. While he's probably not the first person most of us will think of when we conjure up images of action heroes, he's quite good in the role. He has a brooding intensity to him here that makes him a good fit for the part and his back and forth with his team, once assembled, is appropriately tough, grizzled and world weary. JoBeth Williams has got that pretty girl next door vibe about her that makes her work in her supporting part very effective and another supporting performance from Tom Berenger as one of the team members used in the latter half of the film is also pretty solid. There are times where the pacing is a little on the slow side in the first half of the movie but once Shannon has made it out of prison and takes the job and then sets out not only to plan it but to execute it, things take off nicely and the payoff winds up being definitely worth it.

    Note: This Blu-ray release of the film includes the theatrical cut and the extended international cut, the latter running approximately fifteen minutes longer. Main additions to the longer version are almost entirely related to character development and highlights include a scene where Shannon attends a child's baptism, a scene between Shannon and Jessie go to bed together, a short bit where the mercenaries run into trouble at a drawbridge and a fair bit more back and forth between Shannon and Lockhart in regards to what to do with the contents of the boat. These moments help to make Shannon a more believable character and as such, the longer cut of the film does a better job of fleshing out character motivations and such. It is the better version of the film.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Dogs Of War debuts on Blu-ray from Twilight Time properly framed in its original 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The film is occasionally heavy with grain but actual print damage is pretty minimal, just a few minor white specks throughout. Aside from a few shots that look to have been shot a bit softer than others, the transfer features strong detail and realistic color reproduction. Black levels are good, skin tones look natural and never waxy or too hot and there are no issues to note with any noise reduction of compression artifact problems. The movie looks very good here.

    The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track, optional subtitles are provided in English only. Surprisingly, the mixes for the two different versions of the movie on the disc do differ, with dialogue sounding quite a bit more solid and robust on the international version than the theatrical and sound effects carrying a bit more weight to them as well. Either way, dialogue is clear on both tracks with properly balanced levels. Hiss and distortion are never problematic and things sound clean and clear. The international track does have a bit more presence though.

    In addition to menus, chapter stops, an isolated score option in DTS-HD and a theatrical trailer, the disc also includes both the international 119 minute cut and the 104 minute US theatrical cut as mentioned. Inside the keepcase, we once again get a booklet of liner notes from writer Julie Kirgo that offer up some background information and critical analysis of the picture - worth reading, as always. Some nice artwork and archival stills accompany this piece.

    The Final Word:

    Dogs Of War is a rock solid action picture and while it might not be the most original 'mercs on a mission' movie ever made, it delivers plenty of tension and excitement. The film also benefits from a really strong cast, with all involved principals delivering some pretty intense performances. Twilight Time's Blu-ray release offers up both cuts of the movie with very good quality. This is pretty entertaining stuff and nicely presented on this disc.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




















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