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MGM Studios DVD presents
The Dogs Of War (1981)

"These guys put up a million dollars, so lets make sure there's change, 'cause I figure we ought to keep it."
- Shannon (Christopher Walken)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: November 06, 2001

Stars: Christopher Walken
Other Stars: Tom Berenger, Colin Blakely
Director: John Irvin

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for (scenes of violence and language)
Run Time: 01h:58m:38s
Release Date: November 20, 2001
UPC: 027616860965
Genre: war

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B-C-C+ D+

DVD Review

Earlier this summer, Christopher Walken had a brief but memorable role as a lunatic film director in the Julia Roberts film, America's Sweethearts. The performance was a bright spot in what can best be described as a dim bulb of a picture. Though scene stealing is nothing new for Walken, it is his ability to take even the worst material and create a memorable performance (i.e. Joe Dirt, Mousehunt) that has cemented him as one of the best-loved actors to appear on screen. A search for fan sites on The Internet Movie Database resulted in no less than twenty Walken-devoted web sites. Anyone in need of more reasons to like the guy should know that his choreography on the video for Weapon of Choice by Fatboy Slim garnered him an MTV award. Amazing, this guy... amazing.

In the little known The Dogs Of War, Walken stars as Shannon, a mercenary whose life has been spent fighting in nearly every corner of the globe. His latest for-hire operation comes in the form of a raid for a mining company that wants to know about an unstable government somewhere in Africa. After his first encounter with the ruthless President Kimba leads to his torture, he leaves the country vowing never to go back. His hopes are soon dashed when the mining company demands he return to overthrow Kimba. With help from other mercenaries, Shannon returns to overtake the regime and install a puppet government.

Closer in terms of plot to Ronin than any film about war, The Dogs of War suffers from a terrible decline in the third act. From the opening scenes of Shannon as a crazy loner to the training for, as well as setting up of, a coup, the film's final scenes fail to deliver the payoff that was to be expected after such an interesting buildup.

What separates The Dogs Of War from the pack is the uncomplicated approach of its screenplay. Screenwriter Gary Devore wisely takes a pass on delving in depth into the personalities of the soldiers or glorifying the life of a mercenary in any way, which in the end adds to the films straightforward sense.

As would be expected, Christopher Walken is terrific as Shannon, and the sight of him holding a hand-held grenade launcher on the cover should be welcomed by any of his fans. Each scene that features Walken is a delight to watch, including those at the start of the film showcasing Shannon's reluctance to take the job. Supporting roles by Tom Berenger and Ed O'Neill are fine, though in the end this is Walken's picture.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, The Dogs Of War could certainly look a lot better. Print flaws adorn the transfer from the start, with several moments where brown dots fill the screen briefly. Colors are muted, though this may be directors intent, failing to give the transfer the eye-popping feel that DVD has come to offer.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Like the video, the Dolby 2 channel mix has little to offer in terms of quality. Several scenes seem badly recorded as dialogue does not synch with the movements of the actors' mouths, and dialogue sounds harsh and distorted. The surround speakers become active only when the score is presented.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French and Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The theatrical trailer for the film is the lone extra feature.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

For the low retail price, The Dogs Of War is a bargain for those who admire the film. For others who are thinking of a sight unseen purchase, be wary. The audio and video are less than perfect and a lack of extras doesn't help matters.


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