If you’re the type of moviegoer who watches movies at Regal theaters for the tubs of buttery and salty popcorn, then you can add Dog Eat Dog to your must-watch list. You will find the crime thriller and black comedy to be slightly tolerable, unpleasantly deranged, and ironically intelligent yet lifeless in its entirety. But that may just be us who want our movies to be more than worth the price of the admission ticket as well as the popcorn and pop soda.
Mad Caper of a Movie
And we don’t mean it in a good way either. Directed by Paul Schrader, the film is more melodramatic than it should be for the genre although there are a few scenes where it was warranted. You will also find a few thrilling action scenes and a few funny scenes but that’s all there is to it – a few things here and there.
The film takes its audience to the tortured mind Mad Dog (Willem Dafoe), a drug addict and thief who has been in and out of jail in his life. He’s planning on a one last big score to finally hit the big time leagues but, no thanks to his drug-addled mind, he runs into problems. He’s not likely to succeed in his plans yet he still pushes through with them because he has lost touch with reality.
Along for the hallucination-filled ride are his comrades in arms, Troy (Nicolas Cage), a crook with the delusions that his life is a film noir, and Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook). The three work on a mad plan – kidnap the baby daughter of a rich gangster and get several millions in ransom. But gangsters being gangsters, there’s no way that the plan will go off without a hitch.
The film opens with an over-the-top scene – a hallucinatory action scene, in fact, that introduces the audience to Mad Dog’s drug-related madness. But the succeeding scenes feel so sedate in comparison with the opening sequence, partly because it isn’t really Mad Dog at the center of the film but Troy.
Cage and Dafoe bring a certain charm to their world-weary yet dim-witted, hot-headed characters but the film just doesn’t do their acting talents justice. There’s always a sense that something’s lacking yet everything seems to be there, perhaps the audience just doesn’t know where to look. Schrader certainly doesn’t give the audience sufficient reason to empathize with the good guys/bad guys, so there’s also the sense of detachment.
It’s a good thing then that you have your popcorn and pop soda to give comfort and consolation during the film’s 90-minute run.