With its title derived from Victorian-era slang for selling an inferior product as high-quality goods, Don’t Sell Me A Dog is a gritty little Irish thriller that delivers on the promise of its premise. Director Pauric Brennan and writer Mark Hampton’s film begins with a solitary man minding his own business in a parking lot. This mild-mannered man is forced to chaperone a young drug-addled couple who recently ripped off their dealer, a hot-headed local crime boss.
Impulsive, nervous CD (Mark Agar) and his adoring girlfriend Adele (Liadh Blake) plan to take the cash and set out on a new life. And while even the best-laid schemes of mice and men go oft awry, their plan is one of hasty indecision and drug-clouded instinct. Their initial idea involved hijacking a car to get away, but its owner, Joe (Any Yule), refuses to part with it and is siphoned into the plan.
Joe is a simple man whose vehicle is his only possession, and he refuses to let them take that from him, even if it makes him a mark for the enraged crime boss. Secrets are slowly revealed, and allegiances between characters are tested as we spend more time with them. Don’t Sell Me A Dog largely follows the interplay between the hunter and the hunted as well as the developing relationship between the young couple and their newfound chauffeur.
“…mild-mannered man is forced to chaperone a young drug-addled couple who recently ripped off their dealer…”
Though the chase propels it, the film relies on the relationships resulting from the botched getaway to be effective. Hampton creatively layers his leads, sustaining our interest by slowly revealing kernels of character motivation as the story progresses. With its narrative driven by such intimate reveals, it’s imperative that its main actors shoulder the film. They give performances that are not only engaging but at times endearing.
Director Pauric Brennan has an ear for authenticity, causing the well-acted roles to be even more believable. The camerawork and sound are tightly focused, shot primarily in and around Joe’s cramped sedan. The style ably captures the evolving predicament and equally toys with our loyalties as viewers.
It culminates into a twist that flips the script one final time on us while remaining true to its characters and storyline. And despite the overall dark themes within, Don’t Sell Me A Dog does not shy from opportune moments to display its heart and wit, with the cast handling the shifts with fluidity. It may have a shaggy surface, but within are flashes of a thoroughbred.
"…[displays] heart and wit..."