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Dogs of War (Movie review)

Mike Bobbitt

Staff member
Directing Staff
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Dogs of War
Movie Review

Plot Details: This review reveals major details about the movie‘s plot.

When Frederick Forsyth‘s bestseller "The Dogs of War" came out in the 1960‘s there were rumors. How did he seem to know so much on mercenary operations and how to overthrow a government. Just where did he get his research from?

There was one rumor that he was one of the financial backers of a failed coup attempt. When it failed he used the info to write a novel to recover his losses. Even if its not true it makes a good story.

The novel has two parts detailing the overthrow of an small African country to exploit its mineral resources. One part is the setting up of a military operation to overthrow the present dictator and install a puppet regime loyal to the mining corporation. Simultaneously a dummy corporation is secretly set up to make a financial killing when the mineral deposits are "discovered" by the new regime. Both parts are detailed and read like a text book.

Many times when a novel, especially a lengthy best seller, is adapted to a movie the very features that made it a success, ensure that the movie will not be. It takes a very good and liberal interpretation to translate the basic idea from one medium to the other and accent the strengths in each.

The machinations of setting up a dummy corporation does not make for a thrilling action adventure film. Therefore it has been dropped from the movie adaptation. This leaves only the coup attempt with brief references as to why it has being done and for whom. This is done at a fast pace with some details omitted, but still gives a chilling insight as to the dealings of international arms deals and shady operations.

The movie also updates the characters. Gone for the most part are the 1960‘s European Congo veterans of the novel. They‘re replaced by American Vietnam Veterans who‘ve attended a finishing school in the dirty little wars in Latin America as the film‘s opening shows us.

Again it works mostly due to the cast. Christopher Walken, Colin Blakely and a young unknown Tom Berenger provide plausible and in the case of Walken down right chilling as professional soldiers of fortune. As an aside look for Ed O‘Neil, Al Bundy of Married with Children fame in a cameo as a reluctant mercenary.

The novel‘s strength is its detailed explanations of every facet of the operation. The movie‘s is the fast paced scenes that ultimately lead to the explosive climax. Here the brief fire fight to overthrow the Dictator of Zangaro literaly brings the house down.

It seem the Government of Belize where the movie was filmed had decided to demolish the old prison that served as the military compound assaulted by the mercenaries. They were delighted to have the film makers destroy it for them and pay for it in the bargain. I‘m sure the locals also found this more entertaining than conventional methods of demolition.

Dogs of War is not a perfect movie, but it does fulfill the criteria for a good war or action movie. It is plausible and fast paced, what more were you expecting, tips on how to overthrow your local city council?