By Don Simpson | August 17, 2013
Writers: Kim Chapiron, Jeremie Delon
Starring: Adam Butcher, Shane Kippel, Mateo Morales, Slim Twig, Taylor Poulin, Dewshane Williams, Lawrence Bayne, Trent McMullen, Jeff McEnery, Bryan Murphy, Michael Morang, Clayton Joseph, Alexander Conti, William Ellis, Michael States Jr., Arnold Pinnock, Tim Turnell, Lynne Adams
The prologue of Kim Chapiron’s Dog Pound illustrates the drastically different crimes that three teenage boys have committed, thus landing them in the Enola Vale juvenile detention center to serve out their sentences. Butch (Adam Butcher) was charged with aggravated assault of an officer, Davis (Shane Kippel) for narcotics possession with intent to sell and Angel (Mateo Morales) for vehicle theft. The three boys are tossed into a large dormitory room with twenty or so others, presumably representing a menagerie of criminal histories. The mere presence of three new boys is a catalyst for a Darwinian realignment of the power hierarchy. The scariest and most violent will rise to the top of the heap, as the meekest cower at the bottom.
At the heart of Dog Pound is the fact that most teenage boys seem hardwired to not rat each other out. The boys brutally attack each other, but nobody talks. With presumably no way to learn the truth behind the assaults, the prison guards are rendered powerless; but it is difficult not to assume that the laissez-faire approach of the guards is a purposeful attempt to allow the boys to punish each other for their pasts. The theory is that the more dangerous Enola Vale becomes, the less likely these boys will ever do anything to return them here. A major flaw in that theory, however, is that Enola Vale is promoting violence as the only tool for human survival.
Just like the U.S. prison system, Enola Vale treats all of the inmates the same, placing violent offenders next to small time drug dealers and petty thieves. Despite what the guards say, there is no opportunity for growth or retribution; these boys are bullied into submission by unadulterated fear. The most harrowing part of this story, as the closing shot of the film suggests, this is all happening behind closed doors. No one in the real world will ever know what is really going on inside Enola Vale.
Functioning as a heavy-handed condemnation of the juvenile detention system in the U.S., Dog Pound makes no attempt to suggest any solutions. This is not to suggest that it is a filmmaker’s responsibility to change the U.S. government’s neanderthal approach to the punishment of crime, but at least Chapiron does stress that a solution is desperately needed. As we have learned time and time again, punishing all crimes with fear and violence will only continue to breed violent armies of prisoners, most of whom will eventually be unleashed back into society.