AKA: Dog of Flanders
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Producer: Cho Min-hwan
Cast: Lee Seong-Jae, Bae Doo-Na, Byeon Hee-Bong, Miriam Yeung Chin
Running Time: 106 min.
By Mighty Peking Man
The first time I saw Bae Doo-Na in Park Chan-Uk’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, I knew for a fact I would develop an interest in her right there and then. Not since Faye Wong’s presence in Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express has there been a single performance by an actress who has impressed as much as Bae Doo-Na has. On-screen, she seems to possess the acting talent of Meryl Streep, the style of a casual punk-rocker, and the natural persona of the girl next door; as jumbled as that description may seem, that’s my take on her. She’s definitely one of those rare talents that I love seeing, no matter what type of role she’s playing.
In Bong Joon-ho’s debut feature, Barking Dogs Never Bite, Bae Doo-Na plays Hyun-Nam – a good-natured, perky woman who works in an apartment complex office. After watching an Inside Edition-type program about how a heroic woman fought off an armed robber during a jewelry robbery, something sparks off in Hyun-Nam’s mind: all of the sudden she wants to be famous and recognized on TV for some kind of similar good deed. Little does she know, she’ll soon get her chance.
Enter Yoon-Ju, played by Lee Seong-Jae (Attack the Gas Station), a semi-depressed, unemployed college lecturer who lives in a small flat with his estranged pregnant wife. At the beginning of the film, one thing is made quite clear, Yoon-Ju hates the sounds of barking dogs. So basically, when he hears them bark, he terminates them. Plain and simple.
As Yoon-Ju’s life gets more stressful and complicated, his hate for the sound of barking dogs becomes more intense. His actions on dogs lead to serious mishaps and he soon realizes what he’s doing is not making life easier, it’s just making it more of a living hell. On top of it all, Hyun-Nam witnesses his wrong-doing and she’s on her way to do anything she can to catch him; only if she knew who it was (she saw him from a distance, not seeing his face).
Bong Joon-ho’s Barking Dogs Never Bite is as good a comedy and drama, just as it’s good a dark comedy. Asian myths (?) of human dog-eating are explored and made fun of. Lots of witty angles and intense situations are guaranteed to put you in pure awe.
To simply put it, Barking Dogs Never Bite is a must-see.
Mighty Peking Man’s Rating: 8/10