War Dog (1987)
By: Devon B. on June 13, 2013 | Comments
Focus Film Video | Region 2, PAL | 1.66:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 2.0 | 93 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Björn Carlström, Daniel Hübenbecher
Starring: Timothy Earle, Gunnar Ernblad, Bengt Fridh, David Gillies, Iréne Grönwall
Screenplay: Björn Carlström, Daniel Hübenbecher
Country: Sweden
External Links
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I used to listen to rap in the early 90s, but I moved on to other music when the genre seemed to totally stagnate. Then, one day I found Hyro Da Hero. Hyro's an intelligent, witty, socially conscious artist who gives highly energised performances, and I was so happy to finally have a new rapper I could wholeheartedly embrace that I felt the need to tell as many people as I could about him. Finding something great is why we constantly search through heaps of music and movies, looking for that gem that makes all the hunting worthwhile. Often we end up with more soot in our hands than diamonds, but sometimes those diamonds are found in unexpected places, like when I picked up the crazy action movie War Dog. It only took a few minutes of War Dog for me to realise that, like with Hyro, I just had to tell people about this shit.

War Dog is about a man whose brother went missing in Vietnam, and he wants to find out what happened to his kin. It turns out that the brothers' commanding officer left the army and went on to train guerrillas for merciless operations, operations that often lack a moral compass. It probably won't take most viewers very long to work out what's happened to the brother, but as our hero chases the leads his search becomes more and more dangerous.

It'd probably be easy to write off Sweden in regards to action cinema thanks to Ingmar Bergman and The Swedish Chef, but that would be foolishly forgetting one of the world's greatest action stars: Dolph Lundgren. He's not in this, but all that means is that War Dog is a completely separate reason to think of Sweden as a great place for action cinema. Except I'm not entirely sure if War Dog's great or if I was just entranced by its weird, hypnotic qualities. The movie was filmed in English in an attempt to pass the location off as America, but this CALD approach causes some bizarre dialogue and exchanges. My favourite of these is when the hero is introduced to a guy and says, "I'm the guy who called you," and the guy answers back, "Hi. I'm Dean, the guy you called to." Actually, this is just a straight up odd thing to say, second language or otherwise, because I doubt in Sweden that people who are meeting up feel the need to identify which one of them was the caller and which was the callee. Most of the acting takes on a weird tone thanks to the English language shooting, and while a lot of Swedes have an impeccable command of the language, there are a few cast members of War Dog that have a lilt not unlike the aforementioned culinary expert.

I watched a few scenes in the German dub and found my interest in the film waning, so I feel safe in saying that if War Dog had been filmed in Swedish some of the charm and a lot of the unintentional comedy would've been lost, but there are some moments of jaw dropping madness that'll come through in any language. There's some of the best corpse acting I've ever seen, if the idea is that a corpse is a completely alive individual. There's a silencer on a gun that makes it a sound like a ray gun, so I couldn't take things seriously in one sequence because it sounded like the characters were just in a game of Lazer Tag. There's also the war dog that must've watched The Terminator way too much so now wants to pretend he's Arnold Schwarzenegger, which is a silly thing to do given he's not that big.

War Dog isn't all nonsense, though. The film was almost certainly an inspiration for the action classic Universal Soldier, but War Dog goes to extremes that an American mainstream film might never be able to reach. In order to show how heartless the dogs are, early on in the film they gun down elderly people and children. The squibs are bloody and there're a lot of slow motion bullet hits in this film, which did make me wonder why it was shot in English given in the 80s there was no way this was gonna fly in the States. The action is infrequent, but when it comes it's like an ED-209 malfunction with lots of defenceless people taking some hard hits.

War Dog is basically competent, but there are some odd script decisions that have nothing to do with the language barrier. The film easily meets three of the key requirements to be Digital Retribution material, as it has some action and some sleaze and it's chock-full of cheese, and that's a winning combination 'round these parts.
The Disc
The image waivers a bit in quality, but I suspect this is to do with the distributor trying to compile a fully uncut version of the film. There're also a few scenes that seem to have lighting issues, so maybe some of the softness is at the source. At its best the picture looks pretty good for an old Swedish movie, but it does delve down to VHS level a few times. There are some spots and specks and the occasional splotches, but I can't imagine anyone's going to spend too much time cleaning War Dog up to top this release. The audio is available in German and English Dolby Digital stereo mixes. The German track is a bit clearer with some additional sound FX, and the English sounds a bit murky by comparison. However, I think this is more to do with the original language sound design, and the dub track was probably cleaned up for the film's initial release in Germany. Neither mix set my stereo alight, but neither seemed to be a poor representation of the film's audio. The DVD comes with the German language trailer as well as German trailers for Ninja in Geheimer Mission 1 and 2, an English language trailer for Final Reprisal and some deleted scenes. The deleted scenes run about two minutes all up and have imbedded subtitles in, I dunno, Greek, maybe? Anyway, the scenes expand the family a bit, but there's not much here to worry about.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
I'm not sure if I would consider War Dog a great movie without all the insanity, but thankfully it is batshit insane so I can say without hesitation that it's fantastic. Viewers that check it out just because of some bloody clips they've seen might be disappointed, but fans of cheese should be entertained for the whole movie. The DVD isn't exactly a bells and whistles release, but given the relative obscurity of the film I'm not too stressed.
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