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Film / Red Dog

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That's the dog on the right.

"All the sad faces in the world ain't gonna work, so you can just stop."
John Grant

Red Dog is a 2011 Australian film directed by Kriv Stenders, starring Josh Lucas and Rachael Taylor and introducing Koko as the title character. The film tells the story of a dog in a Western Australian mining town and how he affects its inhabitants, including an American drifter, a secretary, an Italian immigrant and a quiet man with a tragic past.

Received a prequel, Red Dog True Blue, in 2016, as well as a spin-off documentary about the canine star, Koko: A Red Dog Story, in 2019.

The film provides examples of:

  • Anachronism Stew: The film features a drive-in screening of Jaws (1975) in 1973. Additionally, nobody smokes throughout the film despite there being no restrictions on it.

  • Beta Couple: John and Nancy's relationship borders on Love at First Sight and develops quick and sweet over the next several scenes, only to end in tragedy when John dies. Vanno spends months trying to ask Rose out, but once he finally does, they soon end up Happily Married.
  • Big Ball of Violence: The two fights between Red Dog and Red Cat are depicted as this.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Vanno. "Dogged", haha.
  • Food as Bribe: How Vanno convinces Red Dog to keep visiting the vet, while he works up the courage to ask Rose out.
  • Framing Device: The bulk of the story is told as a series of anecdotes in the town pub to a visiting truck driver, while Red Dog is slowly dying from suspected poisoning in the back room, and the town's residents race to the pub to pay their last respects.
  • Heroic Dog: Red Dog gets John out of a pub brawl and later saves a man's life, though inadvertently, through a Delicious Distraction.
  • Hospital Hottie: Rose. She actually works a veterinary clinic, but close enough.
  • Kick the Dog: Literally, at least the dog part; some pub-goers time Red Dog eating a can of dog food, then try to up the ante by having him eat a live chicken, but are foiled by John. The caretaker's wife takes it one further later on and tries to kill Red Dog by shooting him. In the present someone is suspected of having poisoned Red Dog.
  • No Antagonist: The Cribbages and Red Cat are the closest to being actual villains of the film, but the former two are Jerkasses at worst and they end up moving away, and Red Cat gets redeemed by Red Dog midway through the film.
  • Old Dog: Red Dog in the narrative present.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: "All the sad faces in the world ain't gonna work, so you can just stop", says John when he meets Red Dog, who wants to hitch a ride in his bus. Sure they won't.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Did Red Dog really ride a ship to Japan?
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The film is based on a book by Louis de Bernières, which in turn is loosely based on anecdotes and even poems collected by Nancy Gillespie. All we know for sure is that there was a dog known to many as Red Dog who traveled Western Australia's Pilbara region, spending much of the meantime in the town of Dampier, adopted a bus driver as his master and died in 1979 and then had a statue built in his honour. Much of what else happens to Red Dog throughout the film is based on common elements of various allegedly true events, and therefore probably have a kernel of truth to them.
  • Walk the Earth: John's life consisted of this before he met Nancy and Red Dog, having never lived in a place for more than two years. Red Dog does a lot of this too while looking for John after his death, supposedly even catching a ship to Japan at some point.
  • Worthy Opponent: Offered as a possible reason why Red Dog and Red Cat became friends after their second fight.