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Red Dog

Australia 2011
Directed by
Kriv Stenders
98 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Red Dog

Synopsis: The legend of Red Dog, a much-loved red kelpie from Dampier who roamed the Australian outback in search of his absent master.

Kriv Stenders’ film is very much in the tradition of Crocodile Dundee and The Castle. Explicitly designed as populist cinema and sentimental in the extreme, if Koko the kelpie is no Paul Hogan or even a Michael Caton, one has to admit that he has canine charm.

Whilst getting off to a uneasy start, the fact-based story of Red Dog is skilfully rendered thanks to the help of Geoff Hall’s crystal clear cinematography (the film was shot using digital cameras) and fine production design by Ian Gracie and art direction by Tuesday Stone. The look of the Pilbara in general and Dampier and its mining operations in the 1970s is captured beautifully (the production  received a lot of in-kind support from the mining companies) and worth the price of the ticket alone. Stenders, again with the help of veteran editor Jill Bilcock, makes sure that despite the obvious sentiments things never get over-cloying and he throws in enough good humour with gags like the hostilities between Red Dog and Red Cat and the romancing of a young veterinarian's assistant (Keisha Castle-Hughes) by  Eye-tie miner, Vanno (Arthur Angel) to keep the entertainment quotient at a solid level.  And the soundtrack features plenty of iconic Aussie Top 40 hits from bands like The Dingoes, Daddy Cool and Rose Tattoo to help things along nicely.

Not everything about the film is so winning: the script by American TV director and writer Daniel Taplitz relies on a familiar typology of characters and lacks a distinctive voice and the casting of good-looking American actor Josh Lucas, and to a lesser extent, good looking Australian actress Rachel Taylor in major roles is too obvious a commercial ploy. But given the material Stenders,although slapping in more significant looks than you’re likely to see in back-to-back episodes of The Young and The Restless, does an impressive job of bringing in a heart-warming family movie.

One special treat for fans of Australian film is the casting of Noah Taylor and Loene Carmen as husband and wife publicans – a happy ending for Danny and Freya, perhaps, of John Duigan's 1987 classic, The Year My Voice Broke.




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