Starring: Bae Doona, Lee Sung-jae, Byun Hee-Bong
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Running Time: 110 mins
Barking Dogs Never Bite is a South Korean film about a man who, frustrated with an incessantly barking dog somewhere in his apartment complex, takes drastic measures to shut it up.
I absolutely love the premise for this film, and, for the first act at least, it manages to deliver a fairly entertaining and still engaging watch. Overall, the film is fine, and in its best bursts of action and comedy proves enjoyable, but it fails to go that extra mile and win you over to its more dramatic side, missing riveting characters that would allow its deeper aspects to prove more interesting, which is very disappointing to see.
However, we’ll start on the plus side, with the film’s ‘lighter’ side. I say that because the funnier elements of the film revolve around a man trying to kidnap various dogs and then ‘make do’ with them.
Now, although the movie kicks off with a big NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED statement, the first five minutes alone are the litmus test to see if you can stand some of things the film shows later on. That said, if you can stand it, the film kicks off in excellent style, with the man immediately getting down to business by finding his first dog and then doing as he desires with it.
There’s a couple of fairly unsavoury scenes that had me reaching for the stop button, but it’s shown in a light-hearted enough way that you can see past it, and from that comes the film’s excellent dark comedy that’s undoubtedly its strongest point for the remainder of the duration.
Of course, being a black comedy, it’s not the sort film that’s going to have you laughing your socks off, but the fact remains that the movie does a good job of balancing its very dark side with some pretty enjoyable humour, and although the rest of the film may not be so stellar and entertaining, there are a good few bright spots where the humour takes over and things are a lot better.
Having said all that, Barking Dogs Never Bite is unfortunately a black comedy that occasionally loses itself on the darker side of things. When it comes to black humour, it’s fantastic, but when it comes to telling a somewhat darker dramatic story, it doesn’t really manage to impress in the same regard, often getting heavily bogged down by a less-than-stellar screenplay and performances that don’t quite evoke the emotional depths the film wants to go to.
It’d be nice to say that this is just a simple black comedy about a guy fed up with dogs, and so decides to do away with them, but the reality is that that more entertaining side of the story is often far overshadowed by its dramatic story about a young man and a woman with interconnecting lives that, while extensively told, just isn’t the most riveting thing to follow, and it means that the film as a whole really takes a dive over the second and third acts when that becomes the centrepiece of the story.
Overall, I was slightly disappointed by Barking Dogs Never Bite. Despite a great premise that provides a good few laughs and decent entertainment throughout, the film doesn’t live up to its potential as a great black comedy, simply because it goes a little too far with a dramatic story that just isn’t as interesting as it needs to be to carry an entire film, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.7.