From the Archives: “The Breed”June 23, 2012
In The Breed, a group of vacuous young people find themselves matching wits against a pack of killer dogs. They’re clearly overmatched.
But lets begin with the plot. Two brothers, their friends in tow, head out to their deceased uncle’s island beach house for a relaxing weekend. This group includes the following stereotypes: The bad boy (Oliver Hudson), the good boy (Eric Lively), the blonde sexpot (Taryn Manning), the good, smart, resourceful girl (Michelle Rodriguez), and finally, the jive-talking sidekick (or JTS, played by Hill Harper). At first everything seems to be hunky-dorky for our little band. They make small talk so inane it made me want to run a power-drill through my temple like the guy in Pi, “Know what time it is? Margarita-thirty! Woo-hoo!” The brothers bicker, the JTS makes an ass of himself, the blonde wiggles, and the good girl lets loose huge pieces of exposition (“This is the first time you’ve seen your brother in years.” “Your uncle owned this place until he died and left it to you.” And so on).
Then the dogs show up. German shepherds, mostly. Look like some Labradors, too. The blonde gets bit, and slowly it begins to dawn on our none-too-intrepid heroes that these dogs are smarter and cleverer than they should be. Actually, they come to this realization after the dogs sabotage their sea-plane. So, the humans barricade themselves in the house and hunker down for a siege. In the meantime, the blonde begins behaving strangely. Could she be turning into…a weredog?!?
As it turns out, nope. The movie never makes it clear what the deal is with the blonde. They hammer the audience over the head with the fact that something’s changing her, but she never seems to exhibit any symptoms beyond moving lethargically and solemnly intoning, “They don’t want you here.” Thanks for the newsflash, toots. I knew we were boarding up the windows for a reason.
But consistency is not the movie’s strong point. The good girl takes an arrow in the calf, but the injury only seems to bother her intermittently throughout the rest of the movie. The good brother is a veterinarian, but only recalls this toward the end of the movie. Finally, the whole macguffin—the explanation for the super-intelligent dogs—is revealed when the good brother just remembers something off the top of his head. I kid you not. Literally: “Huh. I wonder if these super-viscous, intelligent dogs have anything to do that secret dog-training compound my uncle used to work at?” Oh? You think, Sherlock? I just figured Michael Vick had a home someplace on the island.
The Breed has virtually nothing to recommend. It’s not particularly scary. Director Nicolas Mastandrea is of the school that believes that a sharp musical cue makes any image inherently startling: a puppy, a tree, the blonde chick in pajamas. The dogs aren’t all that scary (a scene in which the bad brother swims frantically, pursued by a couple of leisurely, doggy-paddling German shepherds made me laugh until I hyperventilated), and there isn’t even any gratuitous sex or nudity.
If there’s one reason to see The Breed it’s the pleasantly surprising performance by Michelle Rodriguez. For perhaps the first time in her professional career, she plays something other than the snarling, glowering tough-girl. Instead, she plays a characterless, generic girlfriend-type. Well, baby-steps.