What do you get when you make a movie of 1920’s ranch handlers and toxic masculinity? A movie that misses the mark so many times that it might be lost out in the beautiful mountain ranges that surround where they shot it.
The Power of the Dog follows a ranch handler Phil and his brother George, that he more often than not just calls Fatso as they both are going through different changes in their lives on the ranch. George meets and brings home a new wife and her son to the ranch, which adds to the problems that have been going on. Phil is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who has shown time and time again that he can play a cold and cruel character and this is no different. However, his accent comes and goes, and often just sounds like Doctor STrange with a bit of a twang.
Throughout the movie, we find out that Phil is an angry, dangerous, and often cruel man with every interaction he seems to intensify his cruelty. It’s either from his disappointment in his lot in life, that he says makes him happy. Or the loss of Bronco Henry, his mentor, and the movie more than implies was a previous lover. We never see a picture of Bronco Henry or hear more than mentions of him. But the stories of him throughout the movie almost become a point to laugh at – because they are throughout and almost a forced plot element.
The movie is told in five chapters, for no real reason. The different chapters just move the story in time but don’t really make a difference in the storytelling. Instead, it just jumps to another moment shortly in the future, creating an almost episodic feeling to the story. But it feels unnecessary overall.
From toxic masculinity of the stereotypical ranch handlers, the oddball young man who is terrorized for being different, and a woman who turns to alcohol to get away from dealing with the men in her life – The Power of the Dog seems to hit so many tropes that it is almost hard to watch. Add in a slow pace, the movie meanders and is hard to keep your attention.
The Power of the Dog will be in select theaters on November 17 and on Netflix on December 1. This film may have a harder time finding an audience since it seems to be a slow trudge through a story with no real destination.
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About The Power of Dog:
Charismatic rancher Phil Burbank ( Benedict Cumberbatch) inspires fear and awe in those around him. When his brother brings home a new wife ( Kirsten Dunst) and her son ( Kodi Smit-McPhee), Phil torments them until he finds himself exposed to the possibility of love.