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Off the Chain
First time filmmaker Bobby J. Brown, winds his way into the underworld of dog breeding and dog fighting with his sixty minute documentary Off the Chain. Brown takes us through some history of the breed, which was bred initially to fit bulls in Victorian times for entertainment, then eventually dog versus dog became popular and the breed was selectively bred to produce the most vicious and feisty dogs who fight in pits and can potentially bring their "owners" a lot of money (some single fights can have a purse upwards of $50,000) and fame in their twisted little circle of society.
Brown succeeded in interviewing a "Dog Man" named Tucson, who tried to demonstrate that the Dog Men, as they are called, truly love their pets. However this biased reviewer fails to believe that when you see and hear some of the things that the trainers do to their dogs to make them fight, and the treatment they get when they lose a fight. We see footage of a trainer running his dog cruelly on a treadmill, hear of them feeding the dogs hot peppers and gunpowder to get them meaner, and even see something that made me shudder; a trainer drugged his dog prior to a fight and took a rotary tool to his dogs teeth to sharpen them to gain and additional advantage in the fight.
A film like this could easily cross the line into exploitation, but I found Brown to stay on the safer side only using gore and the horrible images of dogs missing faces, disemboweled puppies and actually dog fighting footage to prove a point; and he didn't overuse it. To counter the images, he interviewed various members of different humane societies and rescues to who talked about how the dog that we knew as the family friendly Pete on "Our Gang" was transformed into the hundred-pound ball of fury that it's been known as in the media. Pit Bulls when properly socialized and trained can be a very loving and caring family member, and a montage of owners talking about their dogs while footage of them playing with kids and sitting calmly helped drive this point further.
How's it Look:
Off the Chain is presented in a full frame 4:3 aspect ratio, and the footage throughout the film varies quite highly, ranging from the sharp scenes where Brown is interviewing people to the grainy night-vision shots of the actual dog fights. This isn't a movie that you are going to be using to demonstrate your new TV, but for the subject matter it fits quite well as the dog fighting world is gritty and dirty, not clean and crisp.
How's it Sound:
Two audio options are available, that being Dolby Digital Surround or Dolby Stereo. Because this is a documentary and not a big budget feature, most sound is limited to the front speakers so either sound option will be adequate.
All the dialog and music was mixed quite well, so I didn't find myself needing to alter the sound while watching to make sure I could hear everything.
There are a fair amount of extras on this disc from Ardustry Home Entertainment, starting with a music video for the song Off the Chain from hip hop star, Prodigal Sunn.
A short section on the public opinion of the dogs and dog fighting is included, but doesn't really offer much value aside from a good "what the.." moment at the end with a seemingly drunk guy ranting.
A cool little video about 5 minutes in length shows some Pit Bulls doing various tricks, like catching Frisbees, climbing trees, and other tricks that dogs do to show the intelligence these animals really have.
Two cool extras are an original episode of "Our Gang", featuring Pete the pit-bull, and a Betty Boop short featuring her Pit-Bull, Pudgy. This was a great little collection which helps demonstrate that at one time the breed was respected in this country (remember Buster Brown shoes? It was a Pit Bull).
Not for the faint of heart, or very sensitive dog owners as some of the footage is quite raw and can evoke sadness that man's best friend can be treated in such an inhumane way, Off the Chain is actually quite an eye opening view into a shady underworld that most people don't even realize exists.
Initially I had reservations about watching this, but seeing the respectful way that Brown treated the subject matter made me very glad to have seen this documentary, yet sad that this type of mistreatment of animals is so rampant. After watching the film, I can safely recommend this feature without hesitation.