Dog Eat Dog (DVD) Review
Dog Eat Dog (DVD) Review
Nicolas Cage– Troy
Willem Dafoe– Mad Dog
Christopher Mathew Cook– Diesel
Paul Schrader– El Greco
Chelcie Melton– Sheila
Ali Wasdovich– Melissa
Robert Maples– Jimmy the Face
Directed by Paul Schrader
Screenplay by Mathew Wilder, based on a novel by Edward Bunker
Distributed by RLJ Entertainment
Runtime– 83 minutes
Buy it here
Dog Eat Dog, directed by Paul Schrader, is one of those low budget crime thrillers with an exceptional cast and some good performances but, in the end, isn’t very good. It wants to be good. It has all of the necessary elements to be good. But, in the end, it feels like a big waste of time for everyone involved.
The movie stars Nicolas Cage as Troy, a recently released ex-con looking to get out of the crime life and become respectable. Along with his fellow recently released ex-cons Mad Dog (a batshit Willem Dafoe) and Diesel (Christopher Mathew Cook), Troy tries to come up with one last big score, one last big job that will allow him to live a non-crime life, maybe start a business or something like that. After posing as cops and stealing a street gang’s drug and money stash, Troy and his buddies hook up with El Greco (director Schrader), a local mob boss type in need of help. Apparently some other mob boss/major Cleveland criminal has a young child that needs to be kidnapped for ransom or something. Greco offers Troy and his friends the gig, which Troy immediately accepts but the others hedge on. Kidnapping a kid sounds like quite a bit of work and a giant pain in the ass. Troy eventually gets Mad Dog and Diesel to agree to the job, as they all figure that since they’re kidnapping a baby the kid won’t be traumatized (the kid is one year old, he won’t remember it) and there’s damn near a million dollars at stake. It could be easy.
Could be. We all know, even without knowing the source material (the movie is based on a novel by Edward Bunker), that it isn’t going to work out for anyone, especially Troy, Mad Dog, and Diesel. Since all three men are essentially professional screw-ups with serious issues, there’s no way in hell they’ll be able to pull of the scheme. And to say that the job goes to shit as soon as they enter the house in question would be a major understatement.
Now, if we liked Troy, Mad Dog, or Diesel at all we could root for them to succeed and somehow salvage their massive screw-up. But we don’t. All three men are gigantic scumbags and aren’t half as interesting as the movie wants us to believe. All three actors try very hard to make you like them and watching them go through the motions of their ultimately doomed characters is interesting and somewhat entertaining, but, as I said at the beginning, when it’s over the whole thing feels like a big waste of time. The kidnapping plot stops mattering once Troy and company find out how big they screwed up and suddenly the movie is all about their self-destruction. None of what they go through is pleasant, and as a result, since we’re not on their side at all, it doesn’t matter what happens to them.
And I can’t even explain the ending to you. It makes no sense.
So what went wrong with Dog Eat Dog? I’m not entirely sure anything is wrong with Dog Eat Dog, at least in the sense it’s the movie that director Schrader wanted to make and that Cage and Dafoe wanted to make. It just isn’t anything a movie audience will necessarily want to see. Maybe if it had been made with more money or a flashier director (like a Quentin Tarantino or someone like that) the movie might have succeeded, or at least been more interesting.
The movie’s other huge problem is Troy, Mad Dog, and Diesel don’t really act like lifelong friends or guys that bonded in “the joint.” Troy and Dog sort of feel like friends, and Diesel seems to have a relationship with Troy (not so much with Dog), but there are too many times in the movie where they seem like three guys thrown together as friends who really aren’t friends at all. The movie needed them to be friends because that’s what the director wanted.
The movie also isn’t weird enough. The opening sequence, where we see Dog losing his mind while high on cocaine and then killing his ex-wife and daughter, is funny and disgusting and bizarre and sets a tone that the movie never really bothers trying to maintain for the rest of its runtime. It does try to dip back into that weirdness every so often, but none of it really works as well as that opening sequence. Cage’s narration is also annoying, too, because Cage seems bored with it. Boring narration never works. Why isn’t Cage the batshit one? Isn’t that what Nicolas Cage is all about?
I will say that the movie features a nice exploding head sequence (and, as a result gets a Dolph Lundgren “Greatest Movie Ever Made” nomination because we get to see the exploding head onscreen) and a hilarious performance by Chelcie Melton, who plays Dog’s ex-wife Sheila. Her “church group” speech is a hoot. I also want to commend Schrader’s performance as El Greco because he does most of it inside what appears to be a giant bank vault inside a restaurant. How often do you see that kind of thing in a movie?
Dog Eat Dog isn’t very good. In the end, I really didn’t care for it. But, if you’re a Nicolas Cage completist and like movies that try really hard to be good, maybe you should give Dog Eat Dog a chance. I’m willing to admit that I might not get it. Perhaps you’ll understand it.
Only see Dog Eat Dog is you absolutely have to. Otherwise, watch at your own risk.
So what do we have here?
Dead bodies: More than six.
Explosions: One. Sort of.
Nudity?: Yes. It isn’t very appealing.
Doobage: Cocaine snorting, an eye tattoo, heroin injecting, throat slicing, back stabbing, a pillow used as a silencer, a strip club, a prison flashback, attempted prison escape, racism, strip club sex, an incredibly bad fake police car decals, more racism, blood spray on the window, hidden money, candy bar eating, a bank vault inside a restaurant, exploding head via shotgun blast, off screen dead body wrapping, more strip club stuff, more cocaine snorting, hidden dead bodies, a bad balcony, an under the chin bullet through the head, a flashback to hotel debauchery, grocery store hooey, face punching in slow motion, cop killing, a high speed car chase, police brutality, carjacking, and an ending that makes no sense.
Kim Richards?: Attempted. Sort of.
Gratuitous: Willem Dafoe snorting cocaine, a rotary phone, Asian porn, a Chevron card, Nicolas Cage, liberal use of the “N” word, verbal takedown on Taylor Swift, talk of Cleveland, Ohio, music talk, Paul Schrader, a windmill, GQ Magazine, more Taylor Swift stuff, an old black couple, Nicolas Cage doing an Edward G. Robinson impersonation, tape deck, and an ending that makes no sense.
Best lines: “Oh, shit, you scared me!,” “I didn’t hear nothing about cupcakes!,” “Get the fuck in here! Get the fuck in here now!,” “It’s going to be fifteen hundred dollars,” “There goes the suspension,” “Never want to give a cop an opportunity to shoot a nigga. They got a license to kill a brother these days,” “Hey, man, where the fuck we at?,” “Damn, dude, you’re made of fucking rock,” “Have you ever been to Nice?,” “You know, none of these Wall Street motherfuckers have ever been to prison,” “Jose Vasquez? Who the fuck is Jose Vasquez?,” “Lady, I don’t have time for this shit,” “Dog is gone? Yep,” “Gotta be samurai,” and “I got one more in me, Reg!”
Movie rating: 5.5 /10.0
Dog Eat Dog is presented in 2.35:1 Widescreen.
Audio/Visual Info: Dog Eat Dog has Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.
Nicolas Cage Video Introduction: This is a shot-on-video deal where Cage introduces the movie for some sort of midnight madness premiere at some festival. I don’t think it lasts even a minute.
Beyondfest Q & A with Nicolas Cage and Paul Schrader: A fairly interesting Q and A session. You may want to watch it more than once.
Commentary with Paul Schrader: This is a solo commentary track with the director. Schrader is clearly very into his own work, which is cool. And he has some interesting stories to tell. Worth checking out.
Photo Gallery: If you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.