Starring: Nicolas Cage, Willam Dafoe, Christopher Matthew Cook
Genre: Drama/ Thriller
Ex-cons Troy (Cage), Mad Dog (Dafoe) and Diesel (Cook) are hired by a mob boss to kidnap a baby and hold it to ransom. However, when the abduction goes wrong the three of the them find themselves on the run from both the cops and the mob.
So, for me this is the second heist thriller starring Nicolas Cage that I have watched in as many weeks. The first one, The Trust was dull and boring, and not even worth the time it would take to write a review, while Dog Eat Dog is just as bad in terms of its actual story, but leaves an even more sour taste in the mouth as it is just a nasty, horrible film.
The front cover of the Blu-ray and DVD have ‘from the writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull’ written all over them, as the fact is that Paul Schrader has struggled to do anything good since (apart from Autofocus). Well, Dog Eat Dog is just further proof of the decline of this once great creative talent, and almost feels like it is actually made with a bitter hatred for cinema, because it is made in such a way that it sometimes is a film that is genuinely unwatchable.
Matthew Wilder’s script takes the classic tried and tested ‘one last heist’ story and somehow turns into one of the most hateful and horrid cinematic experiences of the year. Dog Eat Dog is a film that not only gives us characters that are deeply unlikeable and a poorly constructed story that offers nothing, but it is just made with a nasty ideology that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
Dog Eat Dog is based on a book and also apparently on actual true events, but though of course I cannot comment on these, the structure of the story is so shoddy that it feels like it is making it up as it goes along. Before the main plot takes place, we get the supposed ‘character development’, but the problem is that it reveals the three main characters to be horrible and unlikeable, so that when the main plot and heist takes place, the only light element of interest that we have in it that we want them to dramatically fail. At times there are definitely attempts at humour, and there is very much a place for films to be dark, a bit nasty and have edgy humour, but unfortunately throughout Dog Eat Dog these attempts fail miserably as it is all very much ill-judged and just comes as across as lazy, nasty and utterly pointless.
As director, Schrader certainly attempts to make the film stylistic, with various colours used for different scenes, as well as montages that use migraine inducing editing and speeding-up to capture some of the ‘action’ sequences and the moments when the character’s party a little too hard. However, the directorial style is so ill-disciplined that it makes the film totally unwatchable at times. I would say it was style over substance, but though there is undoubtedly no substance, the style is particularly hideous too, so such a phrase would feel like an undeserved compliment.
With all the other elements of the film being so abysmally bad, the actors could have given career defining performances and would not have made any difference whatsoever. The casting of Cage and Dafoe certainly, in isolation, seems like a good idea, and they give suitably unhinged performances, but it feels that even they know that they are starring in a pathetic excuse for a narrative film. For both this is a new low, and Dafoe will get good roles again, but for Cage this just feels like another new low in what is a depressing decline. Meanwhile in what I believe to be his first screen appearance, Paul Schrader himself turns up as the mob boss, but he lacks any screen presence and it is very difficult to understand a word he says. It is a performance that makes some of Quentin Tarantino’s embarrassing cameos look like the work of a true thespian.
It really is impossible to find a good thing to say about Dog Eat Dog, not only is it badly written and directed, but it is made with such an ugly nastiness, that it almost feels like anti-cinema. After watching this insult to cinema, a deep cleanse of the soul is necessary – such as a twenty four hour marathon of French New Wave films or just watching Citizen Kane on repeat, as that is what it will take to heal the scars of this repulsive viewing experience.
Hateful, horrible and unwatchable; Dog Eat Dog is not only filmmaking of the most extreme incompetence, but it is made with a vile and hateful arrogance that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.