6/10 Not to be confused with the Randy Jackson biopic, “The Power of the Dawg”, “The Power of the Dog” is Jane Campion’s return to film making after over a decade away from making feature length films (she has done TV work in the past decade). On paper, this should have been a triumphant return. Campion is an Oscar winner and she recruited an all-star cast along with one of the best composers working today, Jonny Greenwood. While there is plenty to admire in here, “The Power of the Dog” ends up along with “Belfast” as another film that is getting tons of critical acclaim and Best Picture talk, yet I found to be overhyped and overrated. As for what works, the cast is firing on all cylinders with Benedict Cumberbatch playing against type in his most cruel role yet. Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst give wonderful supporting performances while Campion’s direction is strong. The cinematography captures the desolate beauty of Montana in the 1920s while Greenwood’s score wisely creates something new as opposed to retreading his “There Will Be Blood” score. I loved the ending of the film which was the best part but here is where we get into the film’s problems which lead up to the ending. The biggest problem with “The Power of the Dog” is that this film is SLOW. There is nothing wrong with a slow burn of a film that ends with a bang but despite my enjoyment of the ending, the over two hour running time doesn’t warrant what we get at the end. The film moves at a snail’s pace and meanders a bit in the second act. I found myself growing bored at times with how dry the film was but told myself it would be worth it if there was some epic, bloody confrontation for a climax. The ending is much more subtle and despite my appreciation for it, the journey there was just so slow and long winded. Another big problem was Cumberbatch’s character Phil’s complete 180 degree turn. He goes from a downright cruel, despicable man to the complete opposite with absolutely no transition. Even though I understand WHY he suddenly changes his ways and what he hopes to gain from it, Campion’s script doesn’t do a good job of naturally shifting his character. Instead, it feels like a punch to the gut as the audience will receive whiplash by how jarring Phil’s change is. I didn’t buy it at all. Finally, I also found it hard to root for anybody. Cumberbatch is extremely cruel, Plemon’s character has no spine and can’t stand up to his cruel brother. Dunst’s character is a drunk and Smit-McPhee is just awkward. While I did feel for the protagonists, I didn’t connect with any of them as much as I should have. In the end, this is a well made, expertly acted and beautifully shot/scored film with a script that has character problems and pacing that will put some viewers to sleep. Worth checking out once but don’t believe the Oscar hype.

#PhilOfThePast / #AsAMatterOfAnthrax / #TheIntimidationGame / #DoctorRange / #SlowWest2 / #CryAllTheWayToTheBurbank

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