• Rabid Dogs (Enragés)

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: June 14th, 2016.
    Director: Eric Hannezo
    Cast: Lambert Wilson, Virginie Ledoyen
    Year: 2015
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    The Movie:

    Horror and action film remakes have always been controversial and frankly that's only been getting more so of late. Hollywood and the indie scene - both foreign and domestic - have churned through so much vintage material at the point that we have been seeing obscurities like Australia's THE LONG WEEKEND get the redux treatment in the last few years. And frankly, it's often been embarrassing.

    So what's the scoop with the French remake of Italian maestro Mario Bava's RABID DOGS aka KIDNAPPED?

    Bluntly? Not guilty.

    RABID DOGS France (ÉNRAGES) has a few things going for it right out of the gate. Bava's original film was so striking because of his artistic vision and canny casting. The plot was a variation on a very simple kidnapping setup. There's enough viewer familiarity with the dramatic setup to get us comfortable quickly. We've seen this situation plenty of times - almost as much as the hostage scenario. So the success or failure of the film is down to those crucial areas of casting, mood and overall vision. The narrative centers around a group of armed bank robbers on a job gone wrong in a large French metropolitan city. After blasting their way out of the bank, the group, led by a man named Sabri (Guillaume Gouix), make a series of blunders that get the heavily militarized cops on their trail and are forced to take hostages to escape the rapidly mounting posse. The first hostage is a woman (Virginie Ledoyen) taken in a parking lot during a brutal police standoff and the second is a father (Lambert Wilson) traveling with his gravely ill daughter who needs a kidney transplant.

    The thugs, aside from Sabri, are straight out of central casting, but at least it's FRENCH central casting so they look and sound cool with the requisite stubble and macho Gallic attitude. The rest of this exercise is swiftly delivered with some finesse and attention to strong pacing. Escape attempts are made, head games are played between hostages and criminals and there's some abject humiliation thrown in with a dash of sexualized sadism. It's worth noting however, that this film is nowhere near as "morally depraved" as Bava's original. After a few innocents get inevitably killed, RABID DOGS moves into its final act and this is where it makes its artistic mark. The group wind up hiding in a rural area that is celebrating a bizarre event called the "Festival Of The Bear" that is like a cross between an NRA hunting rally, Burning Man Festival and Wicker Man style pagan hoedown. Creepy and weird and gorgeously shot it recalls the final scenes of Walter Hill's brilliant SOUTHERN COMFORT.

    RABID DOGS 2015 has a terrific twist ending like its source material so those familiar with the original won't be surprised but everyone else should be. As for the acting, everyone is competent with Gouix's Sabri being good and Wilson being excellent. Wilson does a superb job as the 'everyman' under unimaginable stress. His carefully modulated performance reminds me of Brian Cranston's work in "Breaking Bad".


    IFC/Midnight's 1080p MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 framed image looks about what you'd expect from a modern film transferred to Blu. Aside from some intentional desaturation, clarity is strong. Black levels are suitably inky, and the HD resolution is only a detriment when it comes to those inevitable CGI blood spurts that have become the bane of the modern action and horror film. Fine detail? Aces. French director Èric Hannezo has gone for a moody but ultra modern aesthetic. Garish and harsh lighting are the order of the day with some striking nighttime sequences and this transfer handles them all ably.

    Audio is handled by a French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that delivers plenty of crunchy bottom end during the various shootouts and other mayhem. This is a fairly rambunctious sound mix but it never overdoes it or teeters into chaos. Dialogue is always clear. There are well rendered English SDH subtitles for the film as well.

    Extras? Frankly, for this film I'd say they went a bit overboard. The first thing is an hour and a half long making of feature that exhaustively covers every aspect of the production from conception to its initial festival screenings. Parts of it drag but regular fixture director Hannezo - who also narrates - is a fun and enthusiastic guy and he makes this watchable. I'd suggest that this lengthy doc would be of most interest to film students due to the extensive technical details covered and hardcore fans of the film.

    Next we have six cast interviews with the only really interesting one being, not surprisingly, Wilson. He neatly breaks down his acting methodology and is an engaging subject. The rest are slightly interesting but often cover ground already handled in the feature length documentary. And at almost 45 minutes for these interviews, things get a little repetitive. We then get a 15 minute piece on the film's fx and production design. This is very much insider baseball but it's actually more interesting than some of the cast interviews. Finally, a trailer in HD is included in the package of extras. It is worth noting that all of these items have English subtitles.

    A DVD is also included but it lacks the Blu rays feature length documentary.

    The Final Word:

    As a modern crime film, RABID DOGS 2015 is quite good. Swiftly paced and well shot with some striking imagery and a strong final act, fans of this genre should enjoy it. The French aesthetic also gives it a slightly exotic aura for the English speaking audience. It can't really touch Bava's original but it's no embarrassment either. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!