An inherently repellent subject has been given surprisingly benign treatment in Dogfight. Title refers to the central event of ex-Marine Bob Comfort’s intermittently intriguing screenplay – a party to which a bunch of young servicemen bring the ugliest women they can find.
Full of obnoxious military attitude and macho bravado, Eddie Birdlace and his three buddies hit the streets of San Francisco on the portentous eve of Nov. 21, 1963, and separately scout for a ‘dog’ that might win the prize for most gruesome date. After a little trouble, Eddie (River Phoenix) manages to locate a candidate in young waitress Rose Fenney (Lili Taylor) and drags the unsuspecting young lady along to the nightclub.
The bringing together of a soldier headed for Vietnam and a future hippie on the night before President Kennedy’s assassination represents a frightfully schematic screenwriting device. But Savoca underplays the character development to such an extent that the film has a muted, very modest impact. Shot mostly in Seattle, the dark looking film presents a strangely underpopulated San Francisco.