According to Hollywood legend, the Oscars banned animals from being eligible for Best Actor after German shepherd Rin Tin Tin won most votes in 1929. That won’t sound so ridiculous if you watch this powerful Hungarian drama featuring the Al Pacino of dog actors, real-life mutt twins Body and Luke.
They share the role of Hagen, the four-legged best friend of 13-year-old tomboy Lili (Zsófia Psotta), who’s shunted off to spend the summer with her dad in Budapest. No fan of dogs, he dumps poor Hagen on a busy road rather than pay a new tax on mongrels. A couple of ‘Lassie’-style adventures later, Hagen falls into the clutches of a ferrety dog fighter who trains the big softie into a killing machine (animal lovers, cover your eyes) by viciously beating him and filing his teeth into sharp points. But Hagen bites back, leading an attack on his human oppressors along with a pack of feral strays.
If it wasn’t so violent, the simplicity of the metaphor – how the abused and outcast will rise up – would work for young audiences. And you won’t beat it for dog acting. The way director Kornél Mundruczó got Body and Luke to run the gamut of emotions from face-licking adorableness to teeth-baring killers baying for blood is genuinely impressive.