Release: 18th November 2016
Carved from a lifetime of experience that runs the gamut from incarceration to liberation, Dog Eat Dog is the story of three men who are all out of prison and now have the task of adapting themselves to civilian life. The California three strikes law looms over them, but what the hell, they’re going to do it, and they’re going to do it their way.
There was a time when names like Paul Schrader, Nicholas Cage and Willem Dafoe held some currency. The latter of the three maybe not so much, but it feels although Dog Eat Dog is a final one finger salute to any hopes of a much need career renaissance for these men. Here exists a film so joyless and lazy, so aimlessly nihilistic, that it doesn’t even have the gall to be abrasive. It feels as though Schrader exhausts all his energy on two short bursts of violence and Final Cut plug-ins early on, then slumps into his chair to listlessly see through 90 agonising minutes of utter sludge. In case you ain’t getting it, Dog Eat Dog is really rather awful.
Based on the novel by Edward Bunker, Dog Eat Dog fancies itself in Tarantino territory. But truth told, in spite of its many moments of anecdotal posturing, the only DNA it shares with the great pointy chinned one is that Bunker is best known for playing Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs. Schrader should know better. As a once outstanding screenwriter, you’d assume he knows what makes a scene pop. Instead we are exposed to a torrent of pulp dialogue that even Shane Black would struggle to enjoy. Now, in writing this review, it is difficult to recall a single conversation outside of Willem Dafoe’s gushing verbiage on the way to a burial site; and for a movie that is 70% dialogue this doesn’t bode well.
Speaking of Dafoe, he really is the only reason to stick with the movie. His cuckoo Mad Dog is really more puppy than man. With a caper movie that is pitch black in tone; you need someone like Dafoe who can turn the most horrendous moments into something to laugh at. After a misjudged opening scene, Dafoe is able to more naturalistically harness his sense of humour and turn Mad Dog into something of a softheaded nutcase. Cage, meanwhile, is on sleep mode (no doubt warn out from being in so many crappy movies this last decade), and Christopher Matthew Cooke is an imposing physical presence who barely registers elsewhere.
As Dog Eat Dog stumbles into its closing moments, you’ll wonder if someone didn’t just leave the camera rolling and go home. The lack of cohesion is shocking, as we are forced to endure what can only be a bit of self indulgence on Schrader or, more likely, Cage’s part. The film decides all too late that it finally has something to say, but we’ve all checked out long before. When cinema is this bad, you can see why streaming services are so important to the survival of production companies. It would be an utter shock is Dog Eat Dog does any real business at the box office, but the real gut punch is that some once great men have sunk to the gutter where only tripe like this can survive. Give me a dog, cat or leather boot. I’ll eat anything so long as it isn’t another shite sandwhich from these guys.
Film Grade: E-
AVAILABLE IN CINEMAS AND ON DEMAND 18th NOVEMBER 2016