Blu-ray Review: The Dogs of War - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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Fresh off his exemplary work on BBC television’s adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, director John Irvin made his Hollywood feature debut with The Dogs of War. The 1980 production (based on the novel of the same name by Frederick Forsyth) is technical sound and boasts an interesting cast. Christopher Walken leads the ensemble in understated fashion as mercenary Jamie Shannon. The movie hits its action peak right out of the gate, with Jamie leading a team through a chaotic strike on a war-torn Central American locale, narrowly escaping bomb blasts in a rickety-looking plane.

What Irvin unfortunately fails to do is establish any compelling reason to care about Jamie and his cohorts after this literally explosive opening sequence. Twilight Time has issued a limited edition (3,000 copies) Blu-ray of this rather uninvolving film that bears superficial resemblances to Sylvester Stallone’s recent Expendables series.

Under the guise of an exotic bird documentarian, Jamie arrives in the African nation of Zangaro for his latest assignment. The local government, under the tight rule of an unforgiving dictator, sees right through the rouse as Jamie begins snapping shots of prohibited locations. He’s apprehended and tortured within an inch of his life. Eventually returning to the U.S., his attempts to reconcile with wife Jessie (JoBeth Willaims) are rebuffed. Jamie puts a team together and heads back to Zangaro to overthrow the dictatorship.

Dogs of War cover (215x280).jpgThe action never really excites and the characterizations are too dull to truly engage. A young, nearly unrecognizable Tom Berenger costars as one of Jamie’s cohorts, Drew Blakeley. Ed O’Neill is also on hand in a small supporting role. As the plot progresses, the tension inherent in Jamie’s mission should be ramping up, but the entire film has an even, steady tone that never seems to build. The result is a dramatically inert “action” picture. It feels like a workmanlike, mechanical effort in which no one is particularly vested on an emotional level. The Twilight Time edition offers both the original U.S. theatrical cut (104 minutes) and the longer international cut (119 minutes).

Twilight Time’s Blu-ray edition of The Dogs of War offers a solid visual presentation of Jack Cardiff’s somewhat dull, but pleasingly gritty, cinematography. Detail is strong and only some minor source print flaws create any kind of a minor distraction. The audio is DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo and seems very representative of a film from the early ‘80s. It’s pretty straightforward and a bit underwhelming purely in terms of sound design (for this genre), but the fidelity is great.

A standard feature of Twilight Time releases, Geoffrey Burgon’s score is available as an isolated DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. Otherwise there’s just a theatrical trailer as far as supplements go. Twilight Time’s film historian Julie Kirgo penned a new essay for the Blu-ray booklet.

Visit Screen Archives, the exclusive distributor of Twilight Time titles, for ordering information.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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