Dog Eat Dog
Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe have room to do their thing in Paul Schrader's lurid crime yarn
Paul Schrader turned 70 earlier this year but shows little signs of embracing his status as an elder statesman of the 'Movie Brat' generation. He may have written Taxi Driver and directed American Gigolo, but the low-budget, independently made Dog Eat Dog has all the impudent bravado of a restless young talent desperate to make his mark. This lurid, hardboiled crime yarn is served with a hefty side order of Tarantino-style swagger and a world-weary view of a 21st century America in which there is little to distinguish between cop and crook.
Fresh from prison, Troy (Nicolas Cage) is reunited with fellow ex-cons Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook) and the aptly named Mad Dog (Willem Dafoe). The men are violent, misogynistic career criminals who are so accustomed to captivity that they feel like aliens back in the real world. They are so dumb and deluded that they represent a danger to themselves and to society. They are the Three Stooges of crime and you just know that a lucrative offer to kidnap a mobster's baby will go horribly wrong.
Dog Eat Dog is based on the novel by Edward Bunker (Mr Blue in Reservoir Dogs) and whilst the blood-soaked plot is no big deal, Schrader infuses it with familiar preoccupations, from Samurai codes of honour to class conflict. He also allows Cage and Dafoe to do their thing in the most delightful way. A relatively restrained Cage riffs on the joys of movie tough guys from Hollywood's Golden Age, whilst Dafoe burrows under the skin of a motormouth psychopath to find some of the pathos and poignancy hidden below a repellent surface. There are some misjudgements along the way and it's a film that's definitely a little rough around the edges but it reveals Schrader as an old dog who still knows a trick or two.
Selected release from Fri 18 Nov.