Adaptations of Frederick Forsyth novels quite possibly peaked too soon with 1975’s The Day of the Jackal, arguably the thriller writer’s most renowned work, far more so than The Dogs of War.
In some ways it feels unfair to compare the two, given they tread different geopolitical waters, but you always know what you’re getting with a Forsyth story. A global travelogue, international espionage and intrigue, a shady hero (or anti-hero) and lots of old, powerful men plotting conspiracies behind closed doors. John Irvin’s adaptation of The Dogs of War is right in that wheelhouse and does exactly what it says on the Forsyth tin, often indeed in a rather formulaic and forgettable way. Even the initial Shakespearean allusions and a flicker of post-The Deer Hunter psychological trauma for Christopher Walken’s central mercenary James Shannon isn’t really sustained as The Dogs of War descends into the muck and mire of shadowy corruption.
Ultimately, The Dogs of War as a piece doesn’t quite warrant the pedigree of those who have assembled before it in front of and behind the camera.
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