Most people refer to the dog pound as a place where abused, punished, or hopeless dogs are sent to live out their last few days before death. In the dog pound, there are only a few good dogs that actually live to see another week and are victims of a set of unfortunate circumstances. With this society imposed connotation in mind, the latest film by Kim Chaporin, winner of the Best Director 2010 Tribeca Film Festival award recipient, Dog Pound, is aptly named.
Dog Pound is set in a juvenile delinquency prison and is about as authentic as it gets, which is especially true given the fact that half of the cast are actually from juvenile delinquency centres in the US.
The film follows three prisoners in particular, Davis a 16 year old sent in for drug possession played by Shane Kippel, Angel a 15 year old in for auto theft and assault played by Mateo Morales, and Butch a 17 year old who ends up in solitary for attacking a correctional officer played by Adam Butcher.
During the first shot of the boys stripped down and waiting for prison garb, the trio looks hardened and unaffected by the term that awaits them. However, it only takes a few minutes into the film for this to change as they meet Officer Goodyear (played by Lawrence Bayne) and learn the social caste system of the jail which is run by Banks the resident bully.
Although Angel manages to escape Banks, it is impossible not to grimace and wince as Butch and Davis suffer at the hands of Banks in a few acts of truly undeserved violence (that he is never held accountable for) in a place that is supposed to promote rehabilitation.
There is a reason why most people will never visit a dog pound willingly, and after sitting through this film for two hours it is likely that you will never want to go back. Generally a place of safety and relaxation, the cinema does not offer any protection from the harsh realities that Chaporin brings to light.
Outside of the disturbing images and brutal fights, the underlying fact that by the end of the film you actually care about three boys who are guilty of heinous crimes is a rough truth to swallow.
For those that make it through the first action packed and bloody half of the film, the hardest part may be dealing with the cinematic peak that never comes. It is hard to look, but it is hard to look away from three boys that you cannot help but feel undeserved empathy for given the vulnerabilities that Chaperin allows you see.
However, the end does not promise any redemption, absolution, or relief to viewers, which is precisely what, will cause Dog Pound to resonate with millions of frustrated movie watchers.