Dog Run

2000, Movie, NR, 100 mins


A powerful, true-to-low-life tale of East Village squatters and junkies, and the living, breathing and often very young lives behind those labels. This semi-improvisational first feature makes the similar milieu of Broadway's Rent look like the false, glammed-up romanticism it is. Shot with down-and-dirty naturalism on some of the most desperate streets in the country, let alone New York City, and featuring a largely non-professional supporting cast that includes real-life teenage runaways, this is a slice of Manhattan neo-realism that's every bit as potent as THE BICYCLE THIEF. Dread-headed Eddie (co-writer Brian Marc) and soft-spoken Miles (Craig DuPlessis) meet in New Orleans after escaping truly abusive households: Eddie ran from a Michigan trailer park where his alcoholic father would pay off gambling debts with his pubescent daughter; Miles from a Tennessee doctor-dad and an emotionally evil "step-bitch" stepmother. They travel to New York as couriers for a dilettante drug dealer (Gary Cunningham) who desires a trial-run transaction with a bigger dealer (Lisa Cork-Twiss) but who winds up stranding them there after a minor snag. With virtually no cash, Eddie and Miles drift to Tompkins Square Park, a longtime gathering place for runaways and others who "squat" in the nearby abandoned buildings, fixing them up piecemeal over the course of months and even years to various levels of habitability. These street youngsters run the gamut, from Keane-eyed kids foraging for the food their junkie parents don't give them, to hardened hustlers who think nothing of viciously mugging and burglarizing their neighbors. Eddie takes up with a voluptuous 16-year-old squatter, Tara (Lisa Ristorucci), who starts him on the road to heroin; the laconic and literary Miles finds refuge in NYU student Rachel (Elizabeth Horsburgh), who likes the taste of bohemian life. The two friends' paths diverge and come together in an utterly natural double-helix of loyalty and for-old-times'-sake closeness that becomes mired in burgeoning differences and the demands of addiction and pride. Marc and director-cowriter D. Ze'ev Gilad began with a fictional blueprint, then spent time with the street kids, many of whom the filmmakers say worked for food. Combining their improvisational scenes with scripted material, the filmmakers crafted a seamless, subtly sophisticated work in which barely perceptible, organic shifts in camerawork and photographic styles move the film beyond being simply "documentary-like." And no tract, this. For all the casual terribleness it records, it is entertainment; the characters are real and fleshed-out, and we care about what happens to them. leave a comment --Frank Lovece

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Dog Run
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