“I’ve made a number of films in my career that are prestigious and important. This isn’t one of them”.
Dog Eat Dog, directed by Paul Schrader (screenplays include Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, director of Blue Collar and Mishima) is a lurid, violent crime thriller starring Willem Dafoe, Nicolas Cage and Christopher Matthew Cook. The actors and director clearly set out to have fun with this sometimes shocking tale. Schrader regular Dafoe is particularly good as a paranoid, unstable and somehow pathetic killer. Nicolas Cage, last seen on screen with Dafoe in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart, is restrained by comparison but focused, perhaps because he knew Dafoe’s intense and dangerously controlled performance could have easily stolen the show.
The three criminals, with a strong bond from shared jail time, are all deeply flawed men, all feel inadequate and desperate in their own ways. And this leads them to commit a kidnapping together against their better judgement that (of course) goes badly wrong. This film doesn’t follow many rules or formulae however, it’s sometimes funny and other times brutal.
Despite some occasional and problematic misogyny, this is fun trashy entertainment.