‘…Dobermann is well worth this 25th anniversary revival; it’s glamorous, gruesome, dangerous, immoral, and a pretty good watch if you’re in the mood for something transgressive…’

Finding reverse gear is part of the going self-improvement that this critic is aiming to find and develop; there shouldn’t be any shame in admitting mistakes. So in that mode, I have to admit I was wrong to think that I wouldn’t be wowed by Jan Kounen’s 1997 action thriller Dobermann, which I considered but turned down for review on several occasions. Flash back to the mean streets of Cannes that year, and waiting for someone outside a cinema plastered with lurid adverts for this cops and robbers story; something about the font used for the title and the garish promise of violence put me off, and it’s taken me 25 years to finally give this concentrated crime-epic a fair shake.

But Dobermann is a straight-shooting film if you have the stomach for excess; trigger warnings of all kinds need to be applied here. Joel Houssin fashioned the screenplay from his own crime novels, and the hard-edged scenario goes through you like a dose of salts. The robbers are Dobermann (Vincent Cassel) and his sadistic gang; they’ve evolved a complex method of bait and switch to evade the attentions of the Paris police. Dobermann is a bad ass, but he’s kind to his girlfriend Nat the Gypsy (Monica Bellucci), who is deaf and communicates only via sign-language.

Dobermann and his gang are horrific characters, but in this world, the cops pursuing them are even worse. They’re led by Christini (Tcheky Kayro), an older, experienced cop who will stop at nothing to get his man; Christini homes in on Oliver, a transvestite who is part of Dobermann’s gang, and terrorises Oliver’s family for information, even manhandling his baby. In fact, Christini overplays his hand by kidnapping and taking the baby to a nightclub where he believes Dobermann and his gang are relaxing after a heist, and all hell breaks loose in a ferocious shoot-em-up finale…

Dobermann’s posters seem to suggest comic-book action, but the result is an amped-up cops and robbers thriller that’s not as extreme by today’s standards as it was then; this is a very violent film, but it’s not as splattery as many of today’s mainstream movies. Dobermann also catches notable talent on the way up, with marquee names Cassel, Bellucci, Karyo, Romain Duris and Gasper Noe all on-screen, and the economy is breath-taking; Doberman, the film and the character, don’t wait around. Full of nasty-ass action (the grenade in the motorcycle helmet is a shocker), Dobermann is well worth this 25th anniversary revival; it’s glamorous, gruesome, dangerous, immoral, and a pretty good watch if you’re in the mood for something transgressive. The French love a gritty, amoral policier, and they’re not wrong on this evidence, which feels like The Sweeney movie that never made it to our screens…things jump up a notch real quicky here, so be warned; tough-nuts only need apply…

Blue Finch Film Releasing presents the 25th Anniversary Release of Dobermann in Cinemas and on Digital Download 13 May 2022




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  1. Outstanding cast. Came along at a very interesting time for the crime picture. The French love a good villain – and that’s not counting the bad cops. Knock out.

    • I hear you, and I do get it. But far worse came down the pike, and maybe in 25 years time, you might see some virtues in this. Maybe.

  2. So used to seeing Cassel with a shaved head that I thought that was Antonio Banderas in the pic.

    How does a dose of salts go through you? I haven’t had the experience.

    1997 was after I gave up on movies at the cinema so I missed this entirely. Might look for it on DVD.

    • I have to admit, there was a point midway when I thought; this won’t work for the Captain. There also a taboo about babies and guns which is proken several times. Best stick to The Care Bears Down Under.

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