Review: With 'The Dog,' the 'Dog Day Afternoon' guy gets his own crazy doc

Noted bank robber John Wojtowicz, whose story was told in "Dog Day Afternoon," becomes the focus of "The Dog," itself a stranger-than-fiction doc.

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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