Dog Eat Dog | Film review – Paul Schrader’s cockeyed, sloppy and very lurid crime thriller

Dog Eat Dog Nicolas Cage Willem Dafoe

Three ex-cons strive to pull off a big score, but their child-kidnapping scheme goes horribly askew in Dog Eat Dog, a lurid crime thriller starring Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe and Christopher Matthew Cook. The crooks are all such psychotic scumbags that spending time in their company is something of an ordeal, yet fans of the stars may want to give the film a look.

Cage, as the gang’s leader, surprisingly tones down his trademark craziness to play the straight guy to Dafoe’s drug-crazed, trigger-happy, totally unhinged character, Mad Dog. Yet even Dafoe is outdone in excess by director Paul Schrader (still best known as the screenwriter of Taxi Driver), who steers the movie with go-for-broke abandon, switching back and forth between different film stocks and filters, and never holding back when it comes to the violence.

The film is based on a 1995 novel by convict-turned-author/actor Edward Bunker (Mr Blue in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs), but plot definitely takes second place to garrulous riffs on criminal life and bizarre set-piece scenes, including the hallucinatory finale in which Cage gets a chance to indulge his best Humphrey Bogart impersonation. Before then, the trio have posed unconvincingly as cops in order to rob a dug dealer, the word ‘POLICE’ taped crookedly to the side of their car. Like the movie itself, the dodge is cockeyed and sloppy, but you can’t help but be a little impressed by its audacity.

Certificate 18. Runtime 89 mins. Director Paul Schrader

Dog Eat Dog is released on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital Download on 2 January by Signature Entertainment.

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