The Dog is a relatively straightforward, chronological documentary about a homosexual bank robber.
In itself, it’s okay. But if I told you it was about the real-life inspiration for Al Pacino’s character in Dog Day Afternoon you might be a little more intrigued. And what really makes The Dog worth seeing (if anything) is the unfiltered personality of John Wojtowicz.
What you know from the Pacino film is that Wojtowicz wanted to steal enough money for his boyfriend’s sex-change operation. You also know that the robbers were inept, they got caught, and some of them were killed.
What you don’t know is the story before and after the bank robbery; Wojtowicz’ army career, his close relationship with his mother, his politics, his lovers.
The Dog is at its best when it lets Wojtowicz off his leash. He’s proud and bold, frankly speaking about his sexual orientation, his libido, and his folksy reasons for wanting to rob a bank. Freud might say he’s all id. Like him or not, he makes for an interesting subject.
The Dog is at its worst when it becomes obvious that this movie, and indeed much of Wojtowicz ’ later life, was a for-profit entertainment. Maybe it’s something he had to do to help pay his medical bills (he had cancer, and looked much more frail in the film’s later footage). In any case, you gradually catch on that he realized how marketable he was, and that starts to erode any charm he might have had.
Wojtowicz died in 2006.