Troy (Nicolas Cage), Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook) and Mad Dog (Willem Dafoe) are just out of prison and have the California three strike rule hanging over their heads. But, going straight is not an option for the trio of crooks and Troy hatches a master plan to make one last, big heist in “Dog Eat Dog”
Paul Schrader, with writer Matthew Wilder, brings us the adaption of the crime drama novel, Dog Eat Dog (1995), by Edward Bunker. It may be because it is a darkly funny, crime tale, but the film feels like an Elmore Leonard story. The difference is Leonard’s stories weave an even flow of crime drama and dark humor, while “Dog Eat Dog” is a series of spikes that transition from brutal deaths to tongue in cheek banter, including ongoing, comical references to Taylor Swift.
The three amigos in the leads have an odd, but somehow believable, loyalty to one another. Nicolas Cage is perfectly cast as Troy, a loser whose tough breaks belie his street smarts. Desperate to make one last, big score, he puts up with Mad Dog’s, uh, madness – the man is the dictionary example of “loose cannon” – which repeatedly get them deeper in trouble. There are, as I said, believable reasons for the mutual devotion. Christopher Matthew Cook, as Diesel has a smoldering, though controlled, persona of capability and loyalty to his friends. Willem Dafoe appears to have a lot of fun as the coke snorting, hard drinking, trigger happy Mad Dog. The rest of the cast are mostly background characters – except director Schrader as mobster “El Greco” The Greek who pulls the strings controlling the trio in a great cameo.
The story is a series of capers that, instead of the guys getting to their ill-gotten gain, only drag them deeper and deeper into the quagmire of crime. I felt a bit more positive about “Dog Eat Dog” until the unnecessary violent ending that felt completely out of place with an uncharacteristic twist. It takes it down a notch. I give it a C+.
Laura gives "Dog Eat Dog" a C+.
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