Thursday, December 29, 2016
DOG EAT DOG (2016)
Directed By: Paul Schrader
Written By: Matthew Wilder
Based on the Book By: Edward Bunker
Cinematography By: Alexander Dynan
Editor: Ben Rodriguez Jr.
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Matthew Cook, Omar J. Dorsey, Louisa Krause
Carved from a lifetime of experience that runs the gamut from incarceration to liberation, Dog Eat Dog is the story of three men who are all out of prison and now have the task of adapting themselves to civilian life. The California three strikes law looms over them, but what the hell, they're going to do it, and they're going to do it their way. Troy, an aloof mastermind, seeks an uncomplicated, clean life but cannot get away from his hatred for the system. Diesel is on the mob's payroll and his interest in his suburban home and his nagging wife is waning. The loose cannon of the trio, Mad Dog, is possessed by true demons within, which lead him from one situation to the next. One more hit, one more jackpot, and they'll all be satisfied. Troy constructs the perfect crime and they pull it off, but in the aftermath, they keep finding the law surrounding them wherever they go.
The film seems more about the characters and camaraderie and conversations more than anything such as plot and the capers. Which one would expect from a Paul Schroeder film. After all this is the man behind such great films such as AMERICAN GIGOLO, BLUE COLLAR and HARDCORE. As well as the screenwriter of TAXI DRIVER. Unfortunately he didn't write this adaptation.
Here you can tell he is being more experimental and trying to shape the film with more atmosphere and mood. As the film is more of a dark comedy than anything else, with moments of suspense added Along the way. As we travel through the gruesome world of these increasingly violent career criminals. Who seem to all be sociopaths of different degrees.
The film marks a return for director Paul Schrader as it feels more a return to style for him after a wild last few films from the ambitious but flawed THE CANYONS and the odd DYING OF THE LIGHT. Though what I can say about his films is that he is always trying to show range and challenging himself and the audience. It might not always work out well, but usually worth noting and experiencing as at least he is trying.
The film stays visually inventive and has a kinetic energy. Which is infectious throughout as the story stays small scale and not for the lighthearted.
A dark comedy that seems to have no heart. Not a minus just saying the characters all have an absence of morals.
The film has a beautiful introduction scene in a strip club. Right after the unpredictable opening scene where we are introduced to Willem Dafoe's character and his ever changing mood swings and psychosis. It's a sick macabre somewhat comedic scene that makes it seem like it is set in the 1980's it is supposed to be modern day.
If you can make it through that scene. You are prepared for the rest of the film. If not it might be best for you to skip as career criminals. They seem to have failure tattooed across their foreheads. As even when successful they seem accident prone and sloppy.
This film is obviously no rehabilitation tale. In fact though w estate with these characters. At no point does the film try to get us to like them or hope for their success.
The film also marks a comeback for Nicolas Cage who has kept working though the projects he finds himself in are of diminishing quality or appear to be jobs accepted more for paychecks rather than of quality. Though to me for every stinker, he always seems to give an out of nowhere performance every once in a while on movies such as JOE or THE TRUST. Here he seems to be the sanest of his crew which unfortunately isn't saying much.
Due to this films craziness it doesn't even seem that odd that in act three all of a sudden his character proceeds to do a Humphrey Bogart impression throughout. We don't know if that is him revealing his character inspiration or just an decision that Nicolas Cage decided to use in his performance.
The film has he same flavor of Nicolas Cage's other film BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS though. It as fully out there but approaching that level.
Willem Dafoe is a standout also in a go for broke performance as Mad Dog. Who constantly lives up to his name. The genius in the performance is that while his actions are flashy. He treats them as normal everyday tasks. Supposedly Nicolas Cage gave up part of his salary to help secure Willem Dafoe to be in the film.
The film feels Like a breakdown of the crime genre, but more about minutae. Not about the trials of the jobs really, but the mundane time between and after of a job
Shot in only 25 days. The crew was largely comprised of recent film school graduates. Which might explain more the experimental nature of the film. As Paul Schrader also had final cut on the film. Something he probably desired after his last film with Nicolas Cage got taken by the producers and supposedly recut against his wishes.
Grade: C -