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1 review, 7 user ratings

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Dogs of War, The
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by Brian McKay

"Cry Havoc . . . and wake me up for the last 15 minutes."
3 stars

THE DOGS OF WAR is one of those slow-simmer early-80's action flicks that seemed a lot cooler when I first saw them as a teenager than they do now. But still, while it doesn't hold up as well as the other "Mercenaries in Africa" film of that era, THE WILD GEESE, it's not a bad watch. If only it didn't take so goddamn long to get on with the action!

But despite the slow-moving, almost draggy first and middle acts, The Dogs of War is not without its points of notoriety. Based on a William Forsythe novel about a group of mercenaries hired to overthrow a ruthless African dictator, it stars a very young Christopher Walken as Merc commando Mike Shannon. An also very young looking Tom Berenger serves as his second in command, while JoBeth Williams provides the ex-wife love interest and a pre-"Al Bundy" Ed O'Neill pops in for a scene or two as one of Shannon's crew.

When an anonymous, evil corporation wants to invest in diamond mining in the small African nation of Zangaro, they send in Shannon for a bit of recon, in order to determine if Zangaro's current facist dictator can be unseated so that they can put their own figurehead president in his place. Shannon flies into Zangaro posing as a bird-watcher, but his cover is blown and he gets beaten to a pulp and sent back on the next plane.

He takes the money earned from the ass-whooping and tries to win back his ex-wife with promises of a fresh start out in California. But although she still loves him, she knows him all too well, and has doubts that he can give up the life of a soldier of fortune. Sure enough, when the company offers him even more money to take a small force back to Zangaro and eliminate the dictator, he reluctantly agrees. After some planning and training and arms buying (including some rather cool-looking "street-sweeper" rotary shotguns), they land in Zangaro under cover of darkness and proceed to blast all hell out of the Presidential compound.

While fairly entertaining, the problem with The Dogs of War is that there just isn't enough war. The only real action takes place near the end, and even that is fairly unsatisfying after such a long build-up. The performances are decent, but nothing really gripping. The ex-wife subplot in the second act seems tacked on and rather pointless, and is never developed further. And while it's fun to see Walken in such an early role, before he fully developed the quirky mannerisms that we all know and love him for today, the Shannon character feels pretty two-dimensional. On the bright side, it's Chris Walken, and even in the crappiest of films, his scenes are usually worth watching.

I'm still not sure how this made it to DVD before the far superior WILD GEESE. It's not a bad film, but it is a bit of a mixed bag. I just wish that bag had held a higher body count.

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originally posted: 05/11/03 23:10:52
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User Comments

8/17/12 Ed Somewhat slow moving but developes decently 4 stars
9/07/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess Hit and miss 3 stars
8/14/10 R.W. Welch Sort of a mixed bag but has a certain edge to it. 3 stars
11/27/06 Curtis Jackson pretty thuggin, SLOW 3 stars
12/09/03 john a darker than usual and intelligent action thriller - very good 4 stars
5/12/03 Jack Sommersby A 1st-rate action adventure. Superb direction; magnificent Walken perf. A classic. 5 stars
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  13-Feb-1981 (R)
  DVD: 20-Nov-2001



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