Dog Eat Dog
dir Paul Schrader
scr Matthew Wilder
prd Brian Beckmann, Mark Earl Burman, Gary Hamilton, David Hillary
with Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Matthew Cook, Paul Schrader, Omar J Dorsey, Louisa Krause, Melissa Bolona, Reynaldo Gallegos, Louis Perez, Chelcie Melton, Bruce Reizen, Ali Wasdovich
release US 4.Nov.16, UK 18.Nov.16
16/US Arclight 1h33
Dog Eat Dog
Carelessly murderous: Cage and Dafoe

cage dafoe cook
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Dog Eat Dog Paul Schrader goes all John Waters on us with this super-trashy crime comedy populated by a bunch of trigger-happy knuckleheads. It's violent and utterly absurd, and yet every scene is quietly saying something important about America's badly dysfunctional justice system. Still, the message isn't particularly easy to hear over the gunfire.

After getting out of prison, Troy (Cage) joins fellow ex-cons Mad Dog (Dafoe) and Diesel (Cook) in Cleveland to try to make a living as thugs for hire. Their first freelance job for boss Greco (Schrader) is violently coaxing rapper-gangster Moon Man (Dorsey) into relinquishing his stash of drugs and cash. Then they move on to an ill-planned operation to kidnap the infant child of Brennan (Perez), who's heavily indebted to Latino kingpin Chepe (Gallegos). The problem is that none of them is terribly disciplined, so nothing goes to plan.

Schrader soaks every scene in lurid colour (or deeply shaded black and white), indulging in swirly effects and witty editing to express the drug-fuelled energy of this band of idiots. The violence is sudden and nasty, and death is approached by everyone in this world with a matter-of-fact shrug. Life isn't worth much among either the cops or the criminals, none of whom have even a hint of a moral compass. Everyone is just trying to get whatever it is that might make them feel happy today.

Cage anchors the movie with another of his deranged, crazy-eyed scene-chomping performances. And he's perfectly matched by Dafoe as the carelessly murderous Mad Dog and Cook as a short-fused meathead who doesn't like talkative women. All three are packed with hilariously grotesque details, personal tics that make any attempt to work together clearly insane. They're both amusing and annoying at the same time. And they're so stupid that we actually root for them to survive the carnage.

Schrader throws so much style and attitude at the screen that it can't help but be entertaining. Watching everything spiral so desperately out of control is often laugh-out-loud funny. And there are some serious things gurgling along under the surface if you can be bothered to look. Mad Dog's desire to clean up his act is genuinely sympathetic, while it's eerily disturbing that the cops have absolutely no interest in finding any sense of justice in this situation.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality, drugs 11.Oct.16 lff

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