I don’t usually review movies in general release. There are so many movie critics and most movies don’t seriously involve dogs. But there are two movies currently in theaters that represent the best and the worst of how dogs are viewed and treated.
The first movie is the most recent. “I Am Legend,” with the fantastic Will Smith playing Dr. Robert Neville, has a dog, Samantha, whom I believe deserves a Supporting Actress nomination. She and Smith carry the picture for most of the time. I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone but Sam is Neville’s family and protector. She is essentially Neville’s equal in their lives. We understand the depth of Neville’s heroic character due to his love for Samantha. The relationship between Samantha and Neville is so intense that harm to her almost breaks him mentally and emotionally.
“I Am Legend” is the deepest and most important kind of dog movie. It shows the intensity of the symbiotic human/canine bond. Many, many barks for “I Am Legend” and Will Smith for his performance.
On the other, darker and more horrific, hand is the Coen Brother offering of “No Country for Old Men.” While I have to say that I have been a Coen Brothers fan in the past, this movie will make me hesitate to view all future Coen Brothers’ movies. This movie may be a “masterpiece” as I’ve read and heard elsewhere, but it is a masterpiece that perhaps should not have been made or at least involved dogs.
Why? Because the level of violence for the sake of violence, especially against animals, promises to inspire sick individuals to recreate the horrendous acts against dogs. Spoiler alert but in the first few minutes, we see a badly injured mastiff, a dead mastiff-type dog who has been used for protecting drug dealers and the shooting of a large dog used to attack by drug dealers.
Now, I understand that movie purists could say that the injured and killed dogs were there to show us how violent this lifestyle is and how dangerous it is to mess with these kinds of people. I’ve got it. That’s a nice, rational argument. The problem is that by showing the killing of these large dogs, the moviemakers are giving sick people the (I am sure very unintended) message that its okay to kill these kinds of dogs because they are “bad’ anyway.
Think I’m wrong? That’s your right but why do you think Pit Bulls and other supposedly “dangerous dogs” are more likely to be tortured and murdered? Could it be that societal messages about thie “bad temperments” give those people already geared in that direction just enough tacit approval in their minds? I strongly suspect this is the case.
The rest of the movie is horrifyingly violent and the only people suffering are the ones who mean no harm or who try to intervene in the killing sprees. I realize the dogs were not the only ones to suffer but they are ultimately the most yulnerable in real life and also the most likely to suffer at the hands of sick people performing copycat dog abuse.
In the end, “No Country for Old Men” represents the worst of how society views and treats dogs (and other humans, as well). These are the dogs Vick and his ilk tortured and murdered. Is it not time to show some restraint and concern in movies? I’m not calling for censorship; I’m calling for forsight and responsibility.