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'The Dog' gets us to the story behind the man in the movie

The Dog


So outrageous, it could only be a true story. While it has been made into a classic feature film, "The Dog" really got down to brass tacks and gives us the story behind the story of the man who lived by his own rules and became famous on that infamous Dog Day Afternoon and that was only half of the story.

The mugshot of the man himself

"The Dog" is a documentary portrait of the late John Wojtowicz, whose attempted robbery of a Brooklyn bank to finance his male lover's sex-reassignment surgery was the real-life inspiration for "Dog Day Afternoon". Step by step, the film takes us through John's transformation as a married Republican Vietnam veteran to a political activist with an insatiable desire for gay sex. Following the Stonewall Riots and the end of his first marriage, John integrates himself into the underground gay community of 1970s New York City, where he meets Ernie and becomes a criminal, along with the subsequent aftermath of his infamous crime and how it affected his life.

While John Wojtowicz passed away in 2006 it is easy to see what a compelling character this man, was and even though it drags a little at times, it is a story that is worth being told and told well.

Through a stunning amount of archival footage and candid interviews, the filmmakers genuinely don't pull any punches as we get a portrait of a guy who for a lack of a better word, was a little crazy but also a genuine free spirit who was determined to live his life by his own unequivocal terms. He makes for one hell of a subject and even though so many aspects of his story border on the absolute ridiculous. It's not something that ends as the events of the bank robbery end, but he was a little crazy...OK maybe he was a lot crazy but his life can best be described as a mess as we track how John Wojtowicz turned into The Dog.

Ultimately, "The Dog" is a genuinely wacky story of an individual who had a hard life, but lived it as much as he possibly could. And while you can never condone some of action, you have to admire his freewheeling and adventurous spirit, as he tried to be true to himself every step of the way.

3 out of 5 stars.

"The Dog" opens on Friday at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema here in Toronto and in Ottawa as well before it tours across the country. On Saturday the 16th the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema is running a double feature of "The Dog" and the classic fictionalized version of his infamous bank robbery in "Dog Day Afternoon".

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