Directed by: Bong Joon-ho
Written by: Bong Joon-ho, Song Ji-ho, Derek Son Tae-woong
Starring: Lee Sung-jae, Bae Doona, Kim Ho-jung, Byun Hee-bong, Go Soo-hee
Committing any harm to animals, and especially dogs is rightfully frowned upon. These creatures do nothing to deserve the pain, and dogs dedicate their entire lives to providing love to their owners. I never thought I could see a film that would depict this type of hatred for dogs, but leave it to Bong Joon-ho to create this hilarious and ridiculous story.
Struggling to crack into academia as a professor, Yung-ju (Lee Sung-jae) gets frustrated with the sound of barking dogs in his apartment complex. That results in him trying to eradicate these dogs, which goes array in many different ways and allows him to cross paths with fame-seeking Hyun-nam (Bae Doona), who happens to be an owner of one of the dogs he tries to get rid of.
The plot of Barking Dogs Never Bite sounds absolutely ridiculous, as dogs have been defined as humanity’s best friend. They always share their love and bring joy to any home they inhabit. The idea that someone would try to harm them simply for being a nuisance sounds so ridiculous and this story absolutely realizes it. The harm does not come from hatred of the animal, but rather the incompetence of the man. Yun-ju cannot land a job to support his family, which leaves his pregnant wife having to work in order for them to eat. He has failed in his duties and sees these animals as the scapegoat for his problems. That leads to him running into Hyun-nam, who witnesses his crime but not deciphering the identity of the perpetrator. Wearing a hood hid his identity, which leads to a cat-and-mouse game between them in their efforts to accomplish each of their goals.
With this absurdist plot, the humor needs to land if it hopes to be successful and Bong Joon-ho delivers in style. Every moment provides a type of insane realization or action that will leave you with nothing to do but laugh at the circumstance. It makes you laugh at how pathetic Yun-ju becomes in his efforts to cover up his failures to his family. It’s incredible to think that this film serves as the feature film debut for Bong, as it shows the incredible heights he will achieve in his career. He has proven himself to be a master of balancing tone and that flexing started strong in his first feature. He provides moments that make you gasp and laugh at the same time, something he would do so again in his perfect masterpiece, Parasite. It creates a sense of uncertainty of what will occur and when Hyun-nam will discover the actions of Yun-ju.
Each character completes their own story, as their goals and aspirations are laid out right in front of the audience. As shallow or as noble as they may be, it makes for something that the audience wants to root for. It makes it all the more difficult to understand some of their actions because it seems antithetical to the goals they wish to accomplish, but this erratic behavior makes itself clear from the very beginning.
The film also boasts some fun chase sequences between some of the characters. When Hyun-nam believes to have found the one responsible for the missing dogs, she chases down the perp and it’s filmed incredibly well. You feel the speed these characters have and see how clear their path to one another remains in each sequence. The geography of the apartment complex plays a major part of these chase scenes and in a way ends them. In each moment, even these chases, comedy finds its way throughout it because it became a great collaboration by Bong Joon-ho and his co-writers.
It does not take any hesitation for me to recommend Barking Dogs Never Bite, but beware that allusion to violence towards dogs occurs without any of it actually being visible on screen. It all fits under the absurd comedic situations these characters find themselves in. The film is incredibly witty in its composition and the way it makes the audience laugh at the character meaning to be the protagonist of the story. The comedy works incredibly well in a physical sense and shows the beginnings of someone that would become a tremendous director. Easy to enjoy but also provides some nice shock value moments that will make you question why in the world you decided to listen to me. Fear not, go along for the ride and enjoy this fun ride constructed by an imaginative filmmaker.