Atomic Dog (1998) review

Atomic Dog (1998) review

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"So our dog is now a rabid, atomic killer, Dad?" "That's right, honey."
“So our dog is now a rabid, atomic killer, Dad?”
“That’s right, honey.”

Twitter Plot Summary: A dog gets irradiated and goes on a rather lacklustre streak of attacks on the local populace.

You will probably decide, just from the title, that this isn’t a particularly good film. If you’re anything like me, a film with a title of Atomic Dog just has to be watched no matter the final quality. I can’t be the only person to think this, right? Back me up here, people. Your decision will also be made on viewing it, of course, because it resolutely fails to run with its premise and make the titular atomic-infused dog anything more than a slightly angry dog that has a few issues with how humanity act around animals.

 

 

You would think that with a title like Atomic Dog we would be in cheesy action movie territory, a world in which a rabid dog doused in radiation goes on a killing frenzy, leaving it down to an inadequate bunch of people from various backgrounds to take on the beast. Inevitably, a few people will be killed by the dog, but eventually it is defeated. There may even be a hint of a sequel in the closing moments. Do we get any of that? No, not even close.

Much of the focus is placed on the family who lie at the centre of the dog’s assaults. And, amusingly, they are almost entirely incidental to the thin narrative. While the performances from all involved are surprisingly good, they are mired by a script that doesn’t have much of interest to say about family relationships, and doesn’t even have the good grace to offer entertaining action to make up for the slower moments.

Doesn't look all that atomic to me.
Doesn’t look all that atomic to me.

The odd moments of “action”, and I use the term loosely, see the dog mildly attacking people who get in its way. The script clearly calls for the dog to savagely attack people, but that’s not presented on screen at all. It’s like the savage beast is hugging them to death. It’s an oddly bloodless approach, and a missed opportunity in my book. A little bit of violence here and there would have at least made up for the fact that very little else happens for the full ninety odd minutes. Still, at least the family aren’t that bad at acting. So there is the one silver lining to all of this after all.

The family call in an animal expert (better known as a vet in some circles… ahem) to help them retrieve their own dog, who has gone on the lam and has, amusingly, shacked up with our atomic dog. Just think of the possibilities for this if they had decided to throw a few jokes into the mix, combined with some over the top gore and violence? This could have been an all time cult classic!

It isn’t. Not even close.

In other words, it is little more than a mid-week, mid-afternoon Lifetime movie, with added nuclear dog – a nuclear dog that looks like any other dog. It isn’t particularly good, it isn’t particularly entertaining, and perhaps the biggest crime of all is that at no point does anybody have their face ripped off.

Score: 1/5

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