Barking Dogs Never Bite

Barking Dogs Never Bite

Rating: 5/10
Year: 2000
Genre: Drama
Director: Bong Joon-Ho
Cast: Lee Sung-Jae, Bae Do-Na

I really don't understand why this film could receive so many positive reviews. It even captured a critic reward at the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

I have to admit that the plot of this film is original and ingenious. Yoon-ju (Lee Sung-Jae) is an unemployed college lecturer. He hates dogs very much because their barking noise always prevents him from falling asleep. One day, he decides to kidnap dogs and throw them away on the rooftop of the building. Hyun-nam (Bae Do-Na), an office attendent, witnesses his malicious act and tries her best to save the dogs...

This film is all about dogs. The characters either love dogs, hate dogs or eat dogs. We have Yoon-ju who hates dogs very much, Hyun-nam and Yoon-ju's wife who obviously are dog lovers, the security guard of the building and the beggar who eat dogs, everyone is related to dogs. The story revolves around the hunting of dogs, the rescue of dogs, the cooking of dogs... In most of these dog scenes, dogs are usually handled, actually the word "tortured" is more suitable, harshly and sternly. Dog lovers should definitely avoid seeing this film or else they must end up cursing the filmmakers.

Even though it has an original concept, the whole film is presented in a way that is too episodic, it gives me an impression that what everyone does in the film is totally pointless and dumb. Some of the scenes are too long. For instance, when the security guard is cooking dogs at the underground level of the building, he spends a lot of time telling his ghost story, which in my opinions is neither funny or scary. The prolongation of the scene is purely irritating.

I am not sure if we are supposed to sympathize with Yoon-ju or not. But I myself just couldn't. This guy is totally cold-blooded. How can one throw a dog away on the rooftop or lock a dog up in a shelf mercilessly? His behaviors really piss me off. I actually think he deserves to get laid off and humiliated by his wife. Bae Do Na is not a beautiful actress. She is just like someone from your neighborhood. She reminds me of Miriam Yeung somehow. I can understand why the Hong Kong distributor decided to cast Miriam Yeung to do the dubbing for her voice in the Cantonese version.

The only interesting observation I got from this film is that, those who hurt the dogs or eat the dogs are always the male characters, while the dog lovers or protectors are always the female. It seems that the financial crisis in Asia has driven every man mad, they have totally lost their self-esteem and have to rely on the women (Yoon-ju finally gets a job with monetary assistance from his wife; Hyun-nam helps Yoon-ju to find his wife's dog) to make a living. Moreover, men are treated even worse than dogs by the women. Many scenes show us how Yoon-ju's wife cares more about her dog than her husband. To a certain extent, Yoon-ju's aggressive behavior toward dogs can be viewed as a jealous mind instead. He wants to regain his social position that is lost to his competitors - the dogs. The only means for him to do so is to eliminate this "threat".

No doubt Barking Dogs Never Bite is a meaningful film that carries serious messages. However, having an original concept is not enough to make a film good. The poor direction by Bong Joon-Ho really keeps me away from it. Nevertheless, if you can tolerate the episodic narrative structure and the seemingly pointless dialogues, go check this film out!

VCD (HK version) - Once again, similar to the Cantonese version of many other Korean films released in Hong Kong, the distributor tries to localize the film by modifying a lot of the dialogues. For those who want to enjoy the original film, it is better to get the original Korean DVD verison.

Cool guy(s) - Bae Do-Na

Reviewed by: Kantorates