Time: 106 Minutes
Lee Sung-jae as Ko Yun-ju
Bae Doona as Park Hyun-nam
Kim Ho-jung as Eun-sil
Byun Hee-bong as apartment maintenance man
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Frustrated with loud barking, an academic (Sung-jae Lee) wages war against dogs in his apartment building.
Barking Dogs Never Bite was one of the movies from writer/director Bong Joon-ho I had left to catch up on. Out of those few movies however, this one didn’t look that interesting to me. One was a monster movie (The Host), another was about a hunt of a real life serial killer (Memories of Murder), another was a murder mystery (Mother), but this one seemed to be something involving dogs, I just didn’t really know what it was supposed to be. I wasn’t really expecting much, and having seen it I can confirm that Barking Dogs Don’t Bite is by far Bong’s weakest movie, not necessarily bad, just okay.
To put things bluntly, if you don’t like seeing bad things happening to dogs in movies, don’t bother watching Barking Dogs Never Bite. Now the violence towards them is quite clearly fictionalised but nonetheless if that sort of thing bothers you in movies, it’s not going to work for you, and you’re not going to last long with this one. The writing is a bit of a mixed bag. There are aspects that are good, and it was good enough to have me willing to watch from beginning to end. It just didn’t interest me all that much, and it’s quite a while before you figure out what this movie is really all about. I also wasn’t invested with any of the characters, least of all the protagonists. The fact that they’re not particularly likable wasn’t necessarily a problem, but they just weren’t very interesting people to follow. Even some of the supporting characters outshone them, though they weren’t great either. With that said, Barking Dogs Never Bite does have its moments, you can see glimpses of elements that would later appear in later Bong movies, mainly with the themes, the dark humour and the dialogue.
As I said previously, the characters aren’t all that interesting, especially the leads played by Lee Sung-jae and Bae Doona, however both actors do what they can in their roles and give good enough performances. The supporting cast with the likes of Kim Ho-jung, Byun Hee-bong and others also do fine enough on their parts.
The biggest strength of the movie is of Bong Joon-ho’s direction. Even for a debut film, his work is pretty strong here. Now it’s not on the level of all of his other movies, and it’s a little rough around the edges, especially when it comes to the editing. However, on the whole it’s quite well made, with some unique creative choices that really stood out. Barking Dogs Never Bite is very clearly an independent and smaller movie, and while you definitely feel the lower budget, some of the filmmaking techniques still managed to shine through at points, and there are a few sequences that are quite good.
Barking Dogs Never Bite is one of those debut films from critically acclaimed directors that you might check out if you’re a big fan of their movies. Outside of people interested in Bong Joon ho’s movies though, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to other people. The cast are decent, and it’s directed quite well (with that being the one aspect that was carrying this movie), but I just couldn’t get into the story or characters, and it was mostly a drag to watch. Overall, not a bad movie, but just okay enough.