Blu-ray Review: Dog Eat Dog (2016)

By , Contributor
Writer-director Paul Schrader has a varied filmography that is justly celebrated. He wrote Taxi Driver. That alone makes him Hall of Fame-worthy. His directorial debut Blue Collar allowed Richard Pryor to flourish as a dramatic actor in a way that no other filmmaker ever attempted. In The Mosquito Coast, Schrader wrote a role that would become Harrison Ford's greatest performance. The recent Dog Eat Dog does not compare favorably with those classics.

Made independently on a low budget, Dog Eat Dog would appear to be a big "F you" to Hollywood after Schrader's previous effort The Dying of the Light was snatched from him and drastically re-edited. Both films star Nicolas Cage. In the special features, both Schrader and Cage make it clear that they were going for broke with Dog Eat Dog, throwing anything at the wall that they saw fit and hoping it stuck. Most of it didn't.

It's a crime caper in which Cage is joined by Willem Dafoe (as loose cannon Mad Dog) and Christopher Matthew Cook (as strong-arm man Diesel). The trio of ex-cons collaborate on a baby-kidnapping scheme ordered by crime boss Grecco the Greek (played by Schrader himself). The scheme goes terribly wrong and the three men must pick up the pieces. The film is a narrative mess to the point of being essentially incomprehensible. Schrader seems to be going for the kind of sensory overload that Oliver Stone achieved far better in Natural Born Killers. The films share an embrace of wildly disparate visuals (black-and-white, highly stylized colors, distorted imagery) as well as a vicious sense of pitch-black humor.

Dafoe is the nominal scene stealer here. No one else (not even Cage, disappointingly) is really allowed to cut loose. There's vicious violence, strip clubs, and drugs, but it all doesn't add up to much more than a bunch of men behaving badly. Even the whole "kidnap a baby" plot (and no, there are no shades of the Coen Brothers' brilliant Raising Arizona here, despite the presence of Cage) sort of gets forgotten about as Schrader throws more ugliness-for-the-sake-of-ugliness at the screen.

Image Entertainment's Blu-ray includes Paul Schrader audio commentary, a 25-minute BeyondFest Q&A with Schrader and Cage, a short Cage video intro, and a still gallery.

Dog Eat Dog BD (299x380).jpg

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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