In The Dog Problem (2006), Giovanni Ribisi plays Solo, a neurotic lonely writer who on the advice of his shrink (Don Cheadle) gets himself a dog which will supposedly teach him to "connect." The little Tongan terrier leads him into human contacts & adventures he would never otherwise have experienced.
At first the nameless dog yaps night & day, pees & poops all over the apartment, & is very demanding. Solo tells his horndog pal Caspar (played by director Scott Caan), "I don't know what to do. I hate him."
He tries to unload the dog on Jules (Mena Suvari), a spoiled, wealthy, bored young woman who already has too many dogs but seems always willing to possess another.
Taking pity on the dog, Solo decides to keep him, & try to learn to love him. But Mena just might not take no for an answer.
He meets Lola (Lynn Collins) in a dog park, & it's almost romantic, until her dog attacks his, & they're off to the veterinarian. Complications ensue as the wholesome girl he met in the park turns out to be a stripper. Plus thug (Kevin Corrigan) to whom he owes lots of money takes a dubious fancy to the dog.
Under such stress, Solo becomes his psychiatrist's borderline stalker, & his writer's block continues unebbing. Then when his namless little dog goes missing, he finally crawls out of his shell to save the beast.
Reminiscent of Truffaut's type of highly intelligent romance, if there's any flaw, it's the underuse of the dog, inserted into the tale as a concession to commercial cuteness, but then given almost nothing to do. The scene of the dog's journey through L.A., back to the petshop, is the closest thing it has to on-screen personality, & that's really nothing more than footage of the dog walking.
The real meat of the tale is in the characterizations, the superior acting. Ribisi is great & the support roles are each their own perfection, with Cheadle's subtle performance especially captivating. To call it a "romantic comedy" demeans it a bit, given what romantic comedies generally are like. It's a tale of urban eccentricity, abjectly pokerfaced.
Neitsche or Neeshee is a dalmation dog & the best buddy of our white trash thuggish-looking skinhead hero Wally Newton (R. Michael Caincross).
Released after a false arrest while walking his dog, he has to find Neeshee, who the cops sent to animal control. But someone already picked up the dog, posing Newton. And so begins Newton's quest in Dog Years (1997) to find his best friend.
Some bad gangsters believe Newton might have their missing drugs, so have taken the dog hostage. Like the cops, everyone thinks a skinhead with hobnail boots has got to be some sort of racist shit eager for trouble. But Newton's just a lonesome decent fellow who loves his dog.
Even when they figure out he had nothing to do with their business, they've still got the dog as a bargaining chip.
He's supposed to meet them at a neutral spot, a parking garage, to reclaim his dog. He borrows a gun from a friend, just in case they're tricking him. He gets his dog but then the dumbass Keystone gangsters Popeye, Durante, & Neto (Charlie Rivers, Ted Parks & Shawn Smith) decide it'd be fun to have a car chase & shoot-out through the parking garage.
When Mr. Drake (Damon Gregory) & his thugs have Newton tied up, he warns them, "You better let me & my dog go, or I'm gonna hurt you." They think his threats are a riot, tied up & still acting tough, ha ha.
They give him the choice to work for them, or to die. He agrees to crap that gets him into deep kaka but they still hold onto his dog. His love for that dog is just so darned sweet of that big galoot of a skinhead.
He borrows more guns from his pal's arsenal, gets picked up by Justine (Veronica Loomis) from Animal Control -- she's the woman who made the mistake of giving Neeshee to drug dealers -- & together they set out to rescue the dog.
Popeye has already been instructed to kill the dog. He likes the dog, but it's not wise to disobey Drake. Lucky for the dog, she escapes out in the middle of the desert. Neeshee's running like an s.o.b. over hill & dale, headed back to Tuscan, while Newton's on the way to Drake's headquarters, bound to be seriously annoyed not to find Neeshee.
Our hero's increasingly violent quest to rescue Neeshee, Neeshee's trek for home, & Popeye & Neto's loony attempt to dye a black lab to look like Neeshy, is funny stuff start to finish, while the action shoot-out at Drake's headquarters is very satisfying.
This low budget independent feature is so bloody darned good it's unbelievable! An action comedy compared by critics to James Jarmusch cross-pollinated with Quentin Tarantino. It ended up with a distribution contract through the worst of all horror film producers, Troma Entertainment, but don't expect anything even distantly resembling Troma's no-budget horror.
Dog Years has since gone out of print on dvd but is not too hard to find from used dvd sources, has been aired on cable, & as I write this it's still stocked by NetFlix. A must-see for action fans, comedy fans, & quirky independent cinema buffs.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl