Tuesday, May 26, 2020

You'll miss Snap Wexley, Kevin Mitnick and more by letting 'Burning Dog' lie

Grunberg (right) and Xuereb stay consistently in view as Smythe and Wesson.
No animals were harmed in the making of Burning Dog. In fact, there are no canines connected to this title, derived from a silly if instructive line of dialogue. And, believe me, there is plenty of throwaway conversation here

It's the action that speaks louder than words, especially during some climactic warehouse escapades that might remind crime-story junkies of early Quentin Tarantino ("Reservoir Dogs") or more recent vintage Ben Wheatley ("Free Fire").

Beware, however, that critical perspective likely will be tainted by your feelings about POV viewing. The storyteller in this dog-eared thriller is heard, but never seen, which means viewers observe a lot of framed and fleeting flashbacks, as told to an interrogator who most likely rescued him.

The eyewitness (voiced by Adam Bartley) is a video-game creator accidentally caught in a web of blackmail, shady cops, bad Russians, FBI guys, and a tough dame (Adrienne Wilkinson). That leads to the characters growing more compelling than the somewhat inconsistent telling.

Partner cops Smythe (Greg Gunberg) and Wesson (Salvator Xuereb) easily take charge and, son of a gun, the recurring gag about their names somehow holds up during the whole caper, too. By the way, while Xuereb's familiar mug has been seen in a slew of TV and film stuff, Grunberg probably has made a more indelible mark on cinematic history as Snap Wexley, a pilot for the Resistance in a couple of recent "Star Wars" movies.

Also recognizable is Eddie Jemison, still best known as the tech/surveillance expert (albeit the 11th, 12th or 13th billed character) from Steven Soderbergh's "Ocean's" trilogy. As a thug here, he's very fond of tazing our first-person guide while teaming up with a more physically psychotic pal (Hugo Armstrong).

The crowded screenplay also flaunts the mention of and, perhaps, an appearance by Kevin Mitnick. Now, knowing that name might offer some insight into where all of this is going. Still, it's not a mighty spoiler; nor is the suggestion to hang around for a look at the nifty closing credits in this watchable first feature from director/writer Trey Batchelor, himself a frequent Soderbergh collaborator.

Not rated by MPAA (but with language, violence and sexual situations); 1:29; $ $ $ out of $5

("Burning Dog" is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, Apple TV and an assortment of world-wide VOD and cable platforms.)

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