Dogfight (1991) - Rotten Tomatoes

Dogfight (1991)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

River Phoenix stars in this period drama about a young man, naive in some ways and worldly in others, who learns an important lesson about the nature of beauty. In the fall of 1963, Eddie Birdlace (River Phoenix) is an 18-year-old Marine Corps volunteer who is about to ship out with three of his buddies for a tour of duty in Viet Nam. Planning a massive blowout for their last night in San Francisco, Eddie, his buddies, and a number of other Marines set up a contest they call a "dog fight." Each man contributes $50 to the pot, and whoever can bring the ugliest date for their meeting that night at the bar wins the prize. Not having much luck finding a suitable contestant, Eddie finds a plain and slightly zaftig woman named Rose Feeney (Lili Taylor), who works in a coffeeshop and dreams of a career as a folk singer. Rose agrees to go out with Eddie, partly because she feels sorry for him, but as the evening wears on, Eddie finds himself growing fond of Rose and tries to worm his way out of taking her to the "party" he's told her so much about. When Rose learns the true nature of the contest, she is furious, not just for herself but for the other women who were cruelly and pointlessly humiliated; Eddie, severely chagrined, asks her out to dinner, hoping to somehow earn her forgiveness. Noted folk singer Holly Near appears as Rose's mother.more
Rating: R (adult situations/language)
Genre: Drama, Romance
Directed By:
Written By: Bob Comfort, Bob Comfort
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jan 7, 2003
Warner Home Video


River Phoenix
as Eddie Birdlace
Holly Near
as Rose Sr.
E.G. Daily
as Marcie
Sue Morales
as Ruth Two Bears
John Lacy
as Fector
Charles F. Vetter Jr...
as Truckstop Waitress
Chris San Nicholas
as Dogfight Buddy
Brian Gotta
as Dogfight Marine
Peg Phillips
as Older Cafe Customer
Neal Allen
as Sergeant Judge
Ron Lynch
as Lance Corporal Judge
Dale Carman
as Restaurant Maitre d'
Angie Utt
as Thrift Shop Woman
Kenny Utt
as Thrift Shop Man
Julian Schembri
as Navy Bill
Brendan Fraser
as 1st Sailor
Brendon Fraser
as 1st Sailor
Matt Skerritt
as 2nd Sailor
Dion Williams
as Older Brother on Bus
Jason Moore
as Younger Brother on B...
Denise Williams
as Mother on Bus
Kristie Gamer
as Pretty Girl
Dave MacIntyre
as Bartender
David MacIntyre
as Bartender
Art Cahn
as Bar Owner
Bob Munns
as 50s Drinker
Bonnie Fox
as Arcade Hooker
Joseph Franklin
as Crying Customer
Jacob Luft
as Neighborhood Boy
Constance McCord
as Dogfight Waitress
Laura Vetter
as Truckstop Waitress
Krisha Fairchild
as Truckstop Cook
George Evans
as Bus Driver
Jillian Armenante
as Girl on Street
Anne Elizabeth Washb...
as Friend of Girl on St...
John Fry
as Marine on Bus
Albert Farrar
as Corpsman
Kenneth Utt
as Thrift Shop Man
Raf Orozco
as Hippie
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Dogfight

Critic Reviews for Dogfight

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (6)

Full Review… | September 7, 2011
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | September 13, 1991
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

May 12, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Dogfight


Dogfight is cruel, poignant, and yet played out. This is one of the more unique period pieces, an independent film made right at the peak of River Phoenix's fame and only several years before his subsequent death. The story is one that makes little sense in the way of meaning. The span of time is the early sixties, right as the folk scene was starting to gain momentum and the Vietnam War was turning from a conflict to a full scale war. Most of the plot relies heavily on the setting to compliment the storyline. Though this is supposed to be about what beauty really means I didn't see much in the way of Birdlace's (Phoenix) change in demeanor or values, only selfish behavior. Though he takes advantage of Rose (Lili Taylor) and you can tell he feels bad about it before going through with the demeaning act itself, he still demonizes himself by taking her in the first place and not standing up for her directly. He even lies to her while trying to apologize for the cruel way he treated her. The character is a severe detraction from what Marines were. It's not that his portrayal was unrealistic of what wartime soldiers were like, but the script undersells their intelligence at every turn and instead tries to sell us on brotherhood, and an entire side storyline about the folk music scene. Rose is a simplistic clod of a girl, who isn't unattractive, and shouldn't fall for his line of bullshit. Though the film is about changing yourself through acceptance and tolerance, Rose shouldn't have let him try to change himself by using her, and he sure shouldn't have started things with her the night before he was being shipped out. I accept many of these faults because the romance was actually quite sweet. It shouldn't have happened in the first place, but the endearing performance from Phoenix pushed me into liking this despite everything. This is a great performance for him, and Taylor who would go on to make the horrid version of The Haunting. Though this film drags (which is odd since it comes in at an hour and a half) it does plant the idea that what you're led to believe isn't always what's right, and any movie that promotes equality and understanding, no matter how clumsy a way they go about it, gets some kudos from me.

Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

A touching little gem of a piece as a new couple enjoy a night on the town before he ships overseas to be an advisor in Vietnam. Phoenix and Taylor are amazing. I'd never heard of it before! Did I give it 3 stars? Shoulda been 4.

Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

Set San Francisco, California during the Vietnam War, Dogfight conceives the innocent and inexperienced relationship of an unsophisticated woman and a young United States Marine she met on the eve of his trip to Vietnam. Most hilarious. Most charming. Most romantic. My personal brand of romance. Lovely.

Jan Marc Macababayao
Jan Marc Macababayao

Super Reviewer

Dogfight Quotes

– Submitted by John L (3 years ago)

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