Sponsor

New Release Review - DOG EAT DOG

Three former jailmates reunite on the outside to continue their criminal ways.






Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Paul Schrader

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Matthew Cook, Omar J Dorsey, Louisa Krause


Dog Eat Dog is the first movie to come along in quite some time that's unafraid to, and skillful enough to portray crime and violence as exciting, snuff porn for our lizard brains. It's the cinematic equivalent of Ice T's Cop Killer album; we know it's an immature and misguided message, but damn if the riffs aren't catchy as hell.



Following his misguided but unfairly derided satire The Canyons, the great Paul Schrader returns with a more audience friendly slice of genre fare, specifically an adaptation of Edward Bunker's 1995 novel Dog Eat Dog. Bunker has been adapted for the screen twice before - 1978's underseen Dustin Hoffman vehicle Straight Time and Steve Buscemi's 2000 prison drama Animal Factory - and if some of the dialogue in Dog Eat Dog sounds like it's aping Tarantino, it's because Tarantino cites Bunker's novels as one of the strongest influences on his own writing; of course, he cast Bunker as one of the bank robbers in Reservoir Dogs.



Bunker's books concern criminals, either resident behind bars or recently released into polite society, and Dog Eat Dog features the latter. Nicolas Cage's Troy finishes a stretch, immediately reuniting with his former partners in crime, Willem Dafoe's unstable Mad Dog and Christopher Matthew Cook's quietly menacing Diesel. The three men embark on a series of jobs for a shady figure known as El Greco, played surprisingly convincingly by Schrader himself, but when they're asked to kidnap a baby, things begin to form the shape of the pear.

I'm unfamiliar with Bunker's novel, but Schrader and screenwriter Matthew Wilder have clearly embellished the text to comment on the America of today. The film opens with Mad Dog watching a chat show in which the host and his guest argue the merits of gun control; minutes later a teenage girl's brains are blown out by the deranged ex-con. Reflecting an all too poignant reality for many Americans, as despicable as the actions of the central protagonists are, it's the boys in blue we ultimately fear the most in this tale.



Schrader manages to consistently flip our moral allegiances throughout Dog Eat Dog. At first it's clear we're not supposed to empathise with Troy and his trigger happy crew, as they slaughter a variety of innocent characters. Yet cinema being how it is, soon Stockholm Syndrome sets in, and by the third act we're cheering them on as they gun down a series of equally sadistic cops.

Dog Eat Dog is the first movie to come along in quite some time that's unafraid to, and skillful enough to portray crime and violence as exciting, snuff porn for our lizard brains. It's the cinematic equivalent of Ice T's Cop Killer album; we know it's an immature and misguided message, but damn if the riffs aren't catchy as hell. Schrader sucks us into this world like a teenage girl's manipulative older boyfriend, and there's an undeniable thrill to be found in watching an over the top Cage strut around like a hyper-real version of Jean-Paul Belmondo's cop-killer in Godard's Breathless. There's no trite redemption story here; like the anti-heroes of The Wild Bunch, these men are too old to learn any lessons, and they're more than ready to go out in a hail of bullets.



At times, Schrader indulges in Oliver Stone-esque visual gimmicks, which feel a bit like a 70-year-old wearing a backwards baseball cap, but equally there are tense action set-pieces constructed with a level of skill that wouldn't feel out of place in a Michael Mann movie. Now in his seventies, Schrader likely feels as though he's growing increasingly irrelevant, but Dog Eat Dog is the most vital and thrilling piece of cinema to come from a former 'Movie Brat' since Brian de Palma's Femme Fatale.

Dog Eat Dog is in cinemas and on demand from 18th November.





discussion by