Dog Eat Dog Review
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As both a writer and director, Paul Schrader is known for his dark, gritty, and often risky films. In his latest, Dog Eat Dog, he teams up with a couple of eccentric stars for an edgy story about desperation, crime, and one last job gone horribly wrong.

Dog Eat Dog follows three ex-cons as they try to make some extra cash to help them make the difficult transition back to the outside. When Troy (Nicolas Cage) is released from prison, he’s greeted by his prison friends, Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook) and Mad Dog (Willem Dafoe). Troy’s connections with a Cleveland gangster help them make some extra money to get them back on their feet. But when they decide to take one last big job to set them all up in their new, clean lives, the plan backfires, and they find themselves fighting for their freedom—and their lives.

Dog Eat Dog is one wild and crazy film, following the trio from heist to celebration and eventually into utter disaster. It’s shabby and seedy in the most creative of ways, playing with light and color for an artistic touch.

The characters are delightfully unhinged, and the casting is nearly pitch perfect—especially Cage and Dafoe, who feel perfectly natural playing a pair of unstable, drug-addicted ex-cons. From the gruesome opening scene, it’s clear that Dafoe’s Mad Dog certainly lives up to his nickname—and he has Cook’s Diesel to balance him out as the quiet, thoughtful, and almost sane one of the group.

Cage, meanwhile, is as Cage as Cage can be. His Troy is a fascinating character: eccentric and animated and desperate for love and companionship. But as the film progresses, the character seems to spiral out of control. He’s wildly unpredictable—sometimes rattling off snappy, Tarantino-like dialogue with ease, sometimes seemingly channeling Christopher Walken, sometimes slipping in and out of a bunch of different characters. It’s all unsettling in a way that Cage mastered long ago.

These unstable characters and their messed-up job could make for an enjoyable pitch-black crime comedy. Unfortunately, though, Schrader never really lets it get to that. While the cast seems to enjoy the craziness of it all, it seems as though Schrader takes it a little too seriously. He tries to turn the film into something grand and symbolic and thought-provoking in the end. And instead of finishing the film with a bang, it ends on a strangely somber and pretentious note.

Dog Eat Dog is a wild, chatty, strange film—in both good ways and bad. Fans of Cage and Dafoe will certainly enjoy the insanity. But it could have been even better if Schrader had simply accepted it for the crazy ride that it is.

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