Dog Eat DogLondon Film Festival 2016
15th October 2016 9.15pm at Vue West End
16th October 2016 2.30pm at Odeon Leicester Square
Paul Schrader returns with Dog Eat Dog, a strange and loquacious slice of hard-boiled noir, adapted from the Edward Bunker novel. Visually eclectic and wildly digressive, the film flickers with pulsing violence, gratuitous profanity and aesthetic daring. Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe and Christopher Matthew Cook play the team of hitmen who attempt to pull off one last job, as is convention, but are plagued by institutionalised neuroses from their long sentences in prison. A permanent residence in the pen is always on the horizon. Lots of the film goes nowhere, and it loses steam during the drawn out middle act. But the peppy dialogue zips with energy and offensiveness, while Schrader’s kaleidoscopic and disjointed visual flourishes mean that the plot can be disregarded without much concern.
Cage generally turns the wackiness down to a minimum as Troy, recently out of prison and resuming his de facto role as gang leader over Dafoe’s Mad Dog – the clue is there – and the Humpty Dumpty of muscle, Diesel (Cook). Dafoe is excellent as the rabid, feral hitman: stupid, emotionally atavistic and completely unable to keep his mouth shut. He “self-medicates” like anyone else, but the treatment comes in the form of bloodlust and drug addiction. Diesel on the other hand is more reticent; his contributions arrive in brief, expletive-ridden bursts of bluster. There is one brilliant scene in a hotel room that demonstrates his vulnerability – simultaneously furious, helpless and desperate. Each member of this dubious bunch has qualms about his own personal freedom. The last job before going straight comes via an old contact, The Greek (played inaudibly by Schrader). The trio must kidnap a baby and charge a ransom on behalf of the client. There is only one way this story is going end.
The tropes of classic noir are nicely manipulated, and Troy’s obsession with Humphrey Bogart reaches an amusing crescendo before the ultimate shootout. The film is very slack for its hour-and-a-half running time, and while the digressions sometimes hit the mark there are a few moments that are neither necessary nor entertaining. But overall, this is a diverting, slightly surreal adventure with little time for sentiment or timidity.
Dog Eat Dog is released nationwide on 16th November 2016.
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