Caption: Noted bank robber John Wojtowicz poses with a gun in "The Dog." Credit: Drafthouse Films Caption: Noted bank robber John Wojtowicz poses with a gun in "The Dog."
Credit: Drafthouse Films

'The Dog'
Directors: Allison Berg, Frank Keraudren
Genre: Documentary
3 (out of 5) Globes

What: It’s already been made into the stranger-than-fiction movie “Dog Day Afternoon,” but now the story of John Wojtowicz makes a stranger-than-fiction doc. In 1972 Wojtowicz created a hostage situation at a Brooklyn bank to pay for his male lover’s sex change.

The lowdown: Great as it is, “Dog Day Afternoon” downplayed and even made weird its anti-hero’s pansexual leanings. Among other things, “The Dog” argues for Wojtowicz as a gay rights icon, who didn’t hesitate in identifying himself as homosexual — with a wife and kids presently off at the beach — and therefore led to its normalization. Of course, that’s a contentious issue: The Gay Rights Alliance, which once counted Wojtowicz as a member, instantly distanced themselves from him, as sticking up a bank could give gays a bad name.

 

Still, for its over-reach, “The Dog” best emerges as a portrait of Wojtowicz himself, who — rather than the sweaty, nervous, nasal-voiced freak played by Al Pacino — was a life-force. Filmed before his 2006 death, the film captures him in all his contradictory glory: a man who swung all over the sexual spectrum, who thinks he did good for his lover by threatening bank employees with a gun, and who spent his post-imprisonment milking his semi-fame for money. (After all, Hollywood did the same.) The film is loose and sloppy, sometimes overreaching, just like Wojtowicz.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

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