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Review: Dog Eat Dog (TIFF 2016)

Dog Eat Dog (TIFF 2016)
09.19.2016
100%
8 10

PLOT: Three criminals (Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe and Christopher Matthew Cook) are hired to kidnap a gangster’s baby.

REVIEW: In his introduction to DOG EAT DOG, TIFF Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes admitted that it was not a natural pick for the programme. Coming from a respected veteran filmmaker like Paul Schrader, DOG EAT DOG, which earlier played Cannes, might seem like a more natural fit for one of the higher-brow categories, but right off the bat it’s obvious that the midnight section is where it belongs.

In the opening scene, we’re introduced to Willem Dafoe’s Mad Dog, a con with an apropos name, who - after doing a few lines of coke and a shot of heroin - murders his nagging girlfriend and her daughter, all of which is played out to shocking comic effect. It’s a disturbed, demented opening but it perfectly prepares the audience for what’s to come - which is the blackest, cruelest gangland tale I’ve maybe ever seen. There are no nice-guy cons here. All three of our leads are two-time losers desperate not to get caught, and each - even Cage’s character - has a psycho streak.

In a way, this is a refreshing approach as who really takes-up this line of work? A life of crime is too often glorified in Hollywood films, but Schrader’s movie does the opposite and depicts it as a world full of scumbag psychos who would just as soon shoot you in the head as talk to you. Adapted from real-life ex-con Eddie Bunker’s novel by Matthew Wilder, this is a one-of-a-kind caper, made all the more memorable by how funny it is.

Certainly, it provides stars Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe with the juiciest, most unhinged roles they’ve played in awhile. Dafoe sends-up his own image as the impulsive Mad Dog, whose only redeeming feature is that he’s too simple to ever double-cross his associates, and he knows it. Christopher Matthew Cook is the crew’s muscle, a guy named Diesel who Cage’s narration swears is actually some kind of genius even though he seems anything but - and Cook is terrific in the part.

Of them all, the one who really gets to have a ball is Cage, in full VAMPIRE’S KISS/BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS mode. Semi sane compared to the other guys, even he’s not above shooting a victim who gets on his nerves, inhaling several grams of coke and, in a weird scene, having a nude ketchup and mustard fight with Dafoe in a hotel room - which is framed in a way that it might in-fact be the Cage character’s own homo-erotic fantasy. Cage is also written with a Humphrey Bogart fixation, giving him the opportunity to play a good chunk of the film doing a Bogie impression, with him assuming the persona the more crazy he gets.

All told, DOG EAT DOG is an absolutely mental film but in a good way. Superbly entertaining, it’s a strong return-to-form for Schrader (who’s also quite decent in a supporting part here as a mob middle-man) after a few iffy movies. Some of the visual gimmicks are a little cheesy and the film looks a little cheap at times, but it doesn’t really matter. There are a lot of great things about it, from the atypical soundtrack, to the dialogue and razor-sharp editing and finally to the great trio of lead performances. This isn’t at all for everyone, but those who it is for (you know who you are) will get as big a kick out of it as I did.

Source: JoBlo.com

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2:14PM on 09/19/2016
Sounds like just the movie for me.
Sounds like just the movie for me.
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1:29PM on 09/19/2016

Midnight Madness

I can see how you could give this film such a high rating since you saw it with the Midnight Madness crowd -- that experience always elevates whatever movie you watch and will actually convince you a film is good when it really is not! --

I saw it the next day in the evening with a bunch of friends and were decidedly less enthused!

I thought I was the intended audience for this movie, but I guess maybe I was not! I'm glad some people have found enjoyment in it, cos I just sat there
I can see how you could give this film such a high rating since you saw it with the Midnight Madness crowd -- that experience always elevates whatever movie you watch and will actually convince you a film is good when it really is not! --

I saw it the next day in the evening with a bunch of friends and were decidedly less enthused!

I thought I was the intended audience for this movie, but I guess maybe I was not! I'm glad some people have found enjoyment in it, cos I just sat there confused about how this got made at all. No one ever sets out to make a bad movie, so obviously there is an audience for it -- and I just don't fit it!

For me, this was not a "return to form" kind of movie in any regard -- it's about 10-years behind in its editing style and it is altogether pointless and without purpose when all is said and done. The cast was great for 90% of it -- but some of their character decisions just felt like they came out of left field. Willem Dafoe was great -- Nicolas Cage was exactly what you'd expect.

I dunno... I would've preferred to enjoy it -- Glad you did, Mr. Bumbray -- but I just couldn't care less about it.
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6:43AM on 09/19/2016
I'm quite convinced Nic Cage has changed his agent because up till now his movies have been surprisingly good (i.e. Snowden, like The_Soloist) pointed out. Cage should be in more theatrical movies, not too many straight to DVD movies.
I'm quite convinced Nic Cage has changed his agent because up till now his movies have been surprisingly good (i.e. Snowden, like The_Soloist) pointed out. Cage should be in more theatrical movies, not too many straight to DVD movies.
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6:17AM on 09/19/2016
I feel like for every five films that Cage does, one turns out to be decent. He was solid in his small supporting role in Snowden and am glad to have another good film of his on the way.
I feel like for every five films that Cage does, one turns out to be decent. He was solid in his small supporting role in Snowden and am glad to have another good film of his on the way.
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