Plot: What’s it about?
Lewis Gates (Tom Berenger) is a bounty hunter, in fact, he is one of the best. But his troubled past and current drinking problem keep him busier than work does. He still harbors guilt about his wife’s accidental drowning, and her father blames him as well. But his past aside, Gates is the best man for a tracking job that just arose in the Montana’s Oxbow area. Three convicts have escaped and made their way into this wooded region, and Gates knows the woods better than anyone, so he is given the task of bringing the criminals back. Gates proves his worth, taking only a few days to track them down, but just as he closes in for the capture, the men are gone. Not a trace of where they went, other than some torn clothing, blood, and an arrow. Is there more than meets the eye with these circumstances? The locals say there are no Indians in the Oxbow region, but Gates has a feeling that there are.
This movie made a quick exit from the cinemaplex, but found a nice home on HBO. I enjoy westerns greatly, and this movie is very much a modern version of one, which pleases me to no end. The storyline is very interesting, although at times it seems rushed while unfolding. But more importantly than somewhat tired dialogue is the movie’s overall appeal, and I feel this one has some strong points as well. I have a good time when I watch this movie, and that speaks volumes on its behalf. The visuals are impressive, with many wilderness shots to make the eyes happy. I think the costumes are great as well, which always helps in this type of movie. Overall, I can recommend this to film fans everywhere, at least as a rental. If you find yourself endeared to the movie, the disc is a good buy, providing HBO really represses the disc to remedy the audio glitches.
Now is the time when I discuss the cast and crew of the movie. Last of the Dogmen features leading performances by Tom Berenger and Barbara Hershey. These two have some good chemistry, but since the romantic backstory is secondary, they never reach their potential. Berenger (Major League, The Substitute) gives his usual performance, which is great for this role. Berenger may not be Oscar material in every movie, but he can play tough guys well, and that’s what he is here. Hershey (Falling Down, Hoosiers) turns in a good performance as well, but she’s not up to her usual high grade acting. The cast also includes Andrew Miller (Oh, What A Night), Kurtwood Smith (The Crush, To Die For), Gregory Scott Cummins (Murder Was The Case), and Steve Reevis (Wild Bill, Fargo). Director Tab Murphy is well known for writing the screenplays for Disney animated films such as Hunchback of Notre Dame and Tarzan.
Video: How does it look?
Last of the Dogmen is presented in 2.35:1 non anamorphic widescreen, and is a decent, but far from perfect transfer. First off, there are many instances of compression errors, with shimmering and moire patterns surfacing more than a few times. The print also shows some serious wear in places, which sometimes can be distracting. Aside from those troubles, the transfer is good. Colors, especially in the nature scenes, are lush and bright, without bleeding or oversaturating. Black levels seem deep and natural, with no detail loss.
Audio: How does it sound?
Ok, here’s the deal. There are two versions of the movie on this disc. The first version is the theatrical release edition. This version sounds great, with a nice, full sound to it. The surrounds are used frequently, so you get the experience of really being in the woods. Some excellent subtle effects also fuel the audio tone of the film. The subwoofer gets some solid hits in also. Dialogue is crisp and consistent, and the narration, by Wilfred Brimley, is also high grade.
The second edition of the film is the director’s version, which leaves off the narration, allowing the audience to figure the details out for themselves. The early pressings of the disc contain an audio error on this version, where the center and right channels are switched. This leads to all manner of problems, which hampers the movie to no end. A repressing is expected, so make sure you get the fixed version.
Supplements: What are the extras?
HBO has issued a very nice supplement selection for this movie. First off, you can listen to a running commentary by director Tab Murphy, which is an insightful track. He discusses the writing aspect of the film, some behind the scenes goodies, and even talks about what he would change. Next up are three featurettes, dealing with a different aspect of the film. Not very in depth, but together they make a nice package on the film. A costume sketch gallery, the theatrical trailer, talent files, and some television spots round out the disc.