Paul Schrader’s new film Dog Eat Dog begins as it means to go on for the proceeding 90 minutes: a coked-up Willem Dafoe terrorises a woman and her daughter in a scene that has pretty much zero relevance to the rest of the film, but sets us up for what to expect – crazy editing, inventive lighting and camerawork, and a script that is darkly comic, but mostly unhelpful in telling the audience what the hell is going on in simple terms.
Three ex-convicts – Tony (Nicolas Cage), Mad Dog (a fantastic Dafoe) and Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook) – plan to make money to get away to Hawaii, and struggle through the modern world after being institutionalised. The film handles the ex-cons’ experiences with great humour and attention to detail, Mad Dog walking barefoot in a hotel at one point just to enjoy the feeling of carpet that he’s missed whilst in prison.
From the point where the main plot of stealing a mobster’s baby and holding it for ransom crops up, Dog Eat Dog seems to go off the deep end. The bizarre situation and characters keep the comedy levels up with no problem, but the erratic editing is done in a way that gives the film an amateurish quality instead of the professional and experimental vibe it was probably intended to give.
Dog Eat Dog is a bit of a mess in terms of clear plotline and editing style – it’s a mishmash of black and white, jump cuts and ’90s-style partying scenes that are not necessarily a positive assault on the senses. However it’s fun, and Cage and Dafoe are worth watching, especially for Cage’s impersonation of Humphrey Bogart.
CAST: Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Matthew Cook, Omar J. Dorsey, Paul Schrader
DIRECTOR: Paul Schrader
WRITERS: Edward Bunker, Matthew Wilder
SYNOPSIS: Three ex-convicts are employed in a job to steal a rival gang member’s baby and hold it for a large ransom.