The Dogs of War

Cry 'Havoc!' and let slip...

Thriller Action Adventure
118 min     5.695     1980     United Kingdom


Mercenary James Shannon, on a reconnaissance job to the African nation of Zangaro, is tortured and deported. He returns to lead a coup.


tmdb28039023 wrote:
Zangaro, the fictional African country in The Dogs of War, is something like Zamunda's poor, small neighbor – especially small. North (Colin Blakely), a British documentarian, informs James Shannon (the invaluable Christopher Walken) that a week after taking office, President Kimba sent his opponents, Colonel Bobi (George Harris) and Dr. Okoye (Winston Ntshona), into exile and jail, respectively. When Shannon, a mercenary on a reconnaissance mission to determine the feasibility of a coup d'état, is arrested, what are the odds that he'll briefly find himself in the same cell as the good doctor? Apparently, as good as befriending one of Kimba's mistresses. Contrived coincidences aside, director John Irvin wisely favors, like the Frederick Forsyth novel upon which it is based, an 'ask questions first, shoot later' philosophy; as a result, a large portion of the 100-minute running time is devoted to the preparations and logistics of the coup — which itself is left for the film's climax (an approach reminiscent of that of The Dirty Dozen), and it's over before soon-to-be-ex-president Kimba knows what hit him. Shannon's personal life, or lack thereof, also receives a lot of attention, which helps explain his willing willingness to pursue this line of work in general, and to return to Zangaro following his traumatic first experience in the country. The reasons behind the coup, in contrast, are not explored as thoroughly; in a nutshell, Roy Endean (Hugh Millais), an English businessman, is interested in a recently discovered platinum deposit on Zangaro. Basically, the only difference between Kimba and Bobi is that, as the latter puts it, “He wants to be God, I want to be rich”; meanwhile, Endean explains that "The people I represent will not do business with a madman." Ergo, out with Kimba and in with Bobi — these plans, though, are subject to change, considering that Shannon may or may not have his own agenda. Ed O'Neill, in just his second film credit, has a pre-Married with Children cameo, and the ever-reliable Tom Berenger is Shannon's lieutenant, but The Dogs of War is, as it should be, Walken’s film through and through.