The underlying cynicism in Inarritu’s debut cinematic venture is biting. Literally.
A dog’s life in the Mexican underworld is not just a snarl. But a venemous growl, followed by saliva-laced fangs digging into mortal flesh. Brutal. In the movie, whether the dog in question is actually a dog or a man…now that’s irrelevant.
Nestled within this gripping dog’s tale is a trilogic adventure that ensnares and intertwines the lives of three men and the women in their lives, amongst the other ‘bitches’. Writer Guillermo Arriaga spins a cataclysmic yarn about Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and his sister-in-law Susana (Vanessa Bauche), Daniel (Alvaro Guerrero) and his model girlfriend Valeria (Goya Toledo), and El Chivo (Emilio Echevarria) and his estranged daughter Maru (Lourdes Echevarria). Their stories are linked, their journeys doomed. From the onset, an air of misadventure is presumed as viewers begin to comprehend a common tie with the one car crash, the many canine rampages and the surly unfinished business(es).
The impact is what frenzy does. The more you see, the more you want to know. And then when you do know, all is not what it seems. It’s a farce. All is empty. A big, fat nada.
I am not sure about Inarritu’s aim whence making the story, but it’s no puzzlement what the director aims to produce by way of influence or impression. Obviously, the catalyst is the phenomenon of love. But love can be misconstrued, misinterpreted, misunderstood. Octavio wants Susana to run away with him. Susana, a victim of wife-battery, remains aloof and seemingly still in love with her husband. Until she becomes pregnant again. Cofi, Octavio’s prized dog brings streaming cash for the runaway couple until Cofi is shot by a rival dog-owner whose dog gets brutally mauled by Cofi in a fevered fight. On the run, Octavio gets involved in a car chase which ends with a collision and the abrupt ending of his young life and that of his friend Jorge. The unfortunate incident leaves the driver of the other car Valeria, who makes a living through modeling, with a bashed leg. Daniel, the man who’s her new love, has already left his wife and moved into an apartment with Valeria to start anew. With Valeria’s means of living stifled by her injuries, Daniel is left picking up the pieces of his life and becoming his girlfriend’s arms and legs. El Chivo, homeless and tired of life, finds himself at the scene of the accident, dissillusioned by his once passioned vow to save the world and having failed to be the father to his long lost daughter Maru, picks up the money in the hands of the accident victims and nurses Cofi back to health.
There are moments of courage, flashes of compassion but surges of lost expectations spilling over. The characters are flawed but in that, they are human. The images are hard-hitting as much as the dog fights in the backdrop are arctic. I do feel that Inarritu flags down a bitter yet honest narrative about the dog-eat-dog business that has become the art, or should I say cunning, of survival today.