Directed by the legendary Paul Schrader, Dog Eat Dog is based on the 1995 novel by Edward Bunker and has been rewritten by Matthew Wilder and Schrader for the cinema release this 18th November. With Schrader involved you’re hopeful for something intriguing, he’s the man who wrote Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, but Dog Eat Dog is a weird animal. It’s like it wants the essence of the likes of Reservoir Dogs with that Tarantino edge but only manages to take the bloody elements and tie it all up in a whirlwind of peculiarity that doesn’t always work.
Sometimes when experiencing a lo-fi film with no expectations an initial strange sense of style, or a different visualisation, can catch you off-kilter. Dog Eat Dog definitely fits that bag as we begin the story on Willem Dafoe’s character sitting in a pink house, sniffing coke, injecting heroine and killing a random woman in a house we’ve never been to before. This opening is uncomfortable but not shocking; it’s bizarre and doesn’t exactly welcome you in.
After this small blood fest, and an initial lack of other character introduction, we learn through flashback that our three leads Mad Dog (Dafoe), Troy (Nicolas Cage) and Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook) are all ex-cons and they end up robbing some bloke because he’s got money and drugs. This first robbery nearly goes awry but they get away and this isn’t a spoiler, it’s all within the opening stages. There will be another big event that comes and causes eventuality.
The big issue with Dog Eat Dog is that it’s a bit messy and not always in a fun way. While Defoe richly embodies the insanity of his character, Cage is his usual self but feels like he’s in the wrong film. The other problem is that some characters give the impression they’re in an average re-make of a 90s crime film we’ve all seen before, but with less surprises. I found it difficult to attach to what’s happening and although I think some scenes are supposed to be funny, or bring comic relief, all we’re seeing are three angry guys irritating everyone they meet.
Here’s the annoying twist though, because I enjoy a random sequence (Kubrick-esque), taking on board something different and in places Dog Eat Dog brings forth some originality. The other bonus is Cage who’s always offers something special but the whole package was a touch too far away from my favoured focus points. However, if you’re after a strange, bonkers crime-drama then you might actually find something you like here, especially as the last half hour really notches up the surrealism.