In Dog, Channing Tatum shares the screen with a Belgian Malinois. But there isn’t a moment where the film takes advantage of its hunky leading man or anthropomorphises the gorgeous four-legged creature.

Trauma, both human and canine, keeps cuteness at bay and elevates a predictable road trip into a meditation on the long-term costs of conflict. Lulu has a pretty name that belies her ferocity. A military working dog who has accompanied her handler on missions to Afghanistan, Lulu isn’t exactly cuddly. Jackson (Tatum) realises this the hard way after Lulu’s handler Riley dies and he is tasked with taking her to the funeral.

Despite his inability to forge an emotional connection with Lulu, Jackson finds that they have much in common. Both are dogs of war, unable to handle civilian life and walking around with unhealed scars. Jackson has a physical condition that is keeping him from returning to military service. Riley’s sudden absence has left Lulu bereft and unfit for re-socialising.

Dog has been co-directed by Tatum and Reid Carolin and written by Carolin (he had also written one of Tatum’s best-known films, the stripper comedy Magic Mike). The crisp 100-minute runtime includes comic encounters with spiritual healers and cannabis growers. Several scenes are devoted to Jackson in earnest monologue with the truculent Lulu. A tribute to American military tradition is leavened by a recognition of the damage it can sometimes cause.

The gentle and unassuming tone – conversational rather than confrontational – carries over to an uncomfortable scene in which the rigorously trained Lulu attacks an Arab man. The moment passes quickly, as do others.

The romance of sorts between man and dog keeps the film on course. Channing Tatum parleys his charm into a performance as light as it is heartfelt. Lulu, played by three different animals, hogs the show without trying to.

Dog (2022).