Friday, June 17, 2016

RABID DOGS (2015) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Scream Factory I IFC Midnight
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 94 Minutes
Audio: French DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Éric Hannezo
Cast: Lambert Wilson, Franck Gastambide, François Arnaud, Laurent Lucas. Benjamin Rataud, Guillaume Gouix, Virginie Ledoyen
Synopsis: On the main avenue of a crowded city, Sabri (Guillaume Gouix, The Returned), grips the steering wheel of his car, eyes fixed anxiously on the bank entrance opposite… Then, there’s a sudden explosion, and three masked men race to the car, loaded with stolen cash. Unfortunately, everything is about to go wrong. With the cops right behind them, the car crashes and their boss is killed. Sabri and his accomplices are forced to run. The desperate criminals will stop at nothing to make their escape. Taking a young woman and a father and child hostage, they embark on a crazy, violent road trip that not all of them will survive…

Rabid Dogs is a modern remake of Mario Bava's 1974 cult-classic Kidnapped, and of all of Bava's movies I think that this is the one movie I think would hold up to a contemporary remake, the original was gritty and lean, it lacked many of Bava's stylish visuals, so I was intrigued to see how this would go over as a slick French remake. The movie adheres to the original story almost slavishly from what I remember as the movie begins with a bank robbery gone awry when four masked men emerge from the bank into chaos. The more seasoned of the criminals (Pierre Lebeau) is mortally wounded in the squirmish with police and the skittish one among the group Manu (Franck Gastambide) accidentally blows the brains out of a hostage along the way. In the ensuing chaos they take another hostage, a young woman (Virginie Ledoyen) and flag down a car driven by an older man (Lambert Wilson) with his sickly four-year old daughter in the backseat. When the wounded leader of the group decides to face off against police in a hail of gunfire the remaining three men and their hostages head out onto to the rural countryside to evade police. With the loss of their leader the younger Sabri (Guillaume Gouix) takes over, but he has a tough time reigning in Manu and the more vicious psychopath Vincent (Francois Arnaud) who loves to taunt and molest the female hostage.
The movie doesn't add a whole lot to the story, Bava's original was taught, tense and stripped down to the essentials, this version of the story had more style and a few more moments of character depth, and a few new scenarios. One involving an armed gas station attendant and another at some weird bear-skinned festival in a rural area that brought a note of The wicker Man to the story, which leads to an encounter with a old woman with a bell who threatens to blow the whistle on the robbers which ends in tragedy. 

As with the original the movie is very dour and bleak with no sunshine for any of the characters, also intact is the gut-punch of a twist at the end, which I still love. As a remake the movie it is at least stylish, as a bank heist gone wrong movie without the baggage of being a remake this is a nice tense watch with some good cinematography and a very nice electronic score. The acting is very decent, characters crammed into a tight space, the atmosphere is tense, Lambert being a standout as the quietly intense father trying to get his daughter to the hospital before she dies, he does a lot by saying very little. As I had first assumed when heard about this remake it fares well, its hard to imagine a contemporary remake of A Bay of Blood or The Whip and the Body, but this heist gone wrong idea holds up well in new hands, even if it largely apes the original with only the added benefit of a new stylish veneer for a modern audience, but I love the lo-fi grit of the original.

The movie arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Scream Factory and IFC Midnight, the stylish French production scores major points for the crisp and stylish visuals that pop in HD. The French DTS-HD 5.1 Surround audio is also crisp and powerful, the pulsing electronic score from composer Laurent Eyquem is probably one of my favorite things about the movie. Extras on the Blu-ray include a ninety-three minute making of documentary (a Blu-ray exclusive), plus forty-two minutes of interviews with the cast, and a few special effects featurettes, plus a trailer for the movie. This is a lot of extras when compared to many of the Scream Factory I IFC Midnight releases we've seen, nearly two hours worth, but they're in French, just like the feature movie.

Special Features
- The Making of Rabid Dogs (93 minutes, Blu-ray only)
- Interviews with the cast (41 minutes)
- Effects, Weapons and Production Design featurette (14 minutes)
- Theatrical Trailer

Rabid Dogs is a very modern and slick update of the Mario Bava cult-classic with very little to add or improve upon from the original, the French production is stylish and slick, easy on the eyes but also largely forgettable. I would say this is one of the remakes that just didn't need to happen, but if you can get beyond that the basic story is tense and claustrophobic tale with a brutal twist, and some may find that the new modern veneer to be more palatable than the raw original, but not me.