It's redundant to say that a film is not for everyone. Of course it isn't. Tell me one film that is and I'll find you at least one dissenter. But that knowledge doesn't stop me using the phrase occasionally, as is the case now. Because Man Bites Dog is certainly not for everyone. In fact, some people will watch this and find their stomachs churning even before things take an even nastier turn at about the one hour mark. I still think it's a fantastic film.
Benoit Poelvoorde plays Ben, a thief and a killer who is being followed around by a documentary crew. Ben is quite good company when he's not killing people. He's even amusing sometimes when he IS killing people, such as the scene in which he gives someone a heart attack to save himself having to use any other weapon. But don't forget that he's an evil man, even as he pals around with the documentary crew and drinks with them and allows them to meet his family. He commits many heinous acts, some of which end up filmed in stark contrast to the lighter moments.
Part mockumentary, part found footage "horror" (in many ways), Man Bites Dog is an astonishing achievement. Anchored by a charismatic performance from Poelvoorde, it effectively mixes pitch-black humour with nastiness in a way that wouldn't work if it wasn't for the talents of the cast, some of whom were unaware of the main content of the film, and the crew.
Brought to fruition by Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel, and Poelvoorde, with all of them sharing the directing and writing credits, this is a look at the fascination the media has with serial killers, and also toys around with the idea of covert and overt complicity. As the crew film the many misdeeds (to put it mildly) committed by Ben, they are already responsible for damage caused even before they get closer to their subject, becoming entangled and entwined with his lifestyle and twisted morality.
It's a shame that neither Belvaux nor Bonzel seemed to be able to use this film as a stepping stone on what should have been a great career. Poelvoorde has a number of other acting credits to his name, and rightly so, but his colleagues only have a handful of other jobs listed, with none of them coming close to the greatness of this.
If you CAN stomach the nastier elements then you will find something that keeps you thinking from start to finish, even as it also makes you laugh with a small running gag about ill-fated individuals tasked with recording sound. But bear in mind . . . it's not for everyone.
You can buy it here.
Americans can buy it here.