Dog Eat Dog sees Willem Dafoe and Nicholas Cage do drugs and bad things (to other people) as down on their luck crooks. When an opportunity to make a lot of money kidnapping a child comes along, they jump at the chance to change their fortunes. They probably shouldn’t have.
Let me start out by saying that if you told me that Willem Dafoe had actually killed some people I would believe you. I base this on his performance at the opening of Dog Eat Dog where his character, ‘Mad Dog’, brutally murders his ex and her daughter after she kicks him out of her house. In spite of this, he still manages to be the most endearing of the three protagonists. This is largely due to the fact that he is at least aware of how screwed up he is.
Therefore, it’s somewhat regrettable that the main character/narrator is Nicolas Cage’s Troy. Cage’s acting isn’t for everyone; due to the fact he doesn’t so much play roles as play himself playing roles. In this case it actually works quite well and he believably comes across as ‘Troy’. The downside of this is that Troy the character is less sympathetic than the author had intended. Troy’s backstory has him going down for drugs planted on him by a crooked cop. However, he’s clearly a career criminal and his response to being denied parole is to grab a gun and try and shoot his way out of the courthouse. So I feel that the 10-15 year prison sentence he served is largely his own fault
The third member of the group, Diesel, is introduced to us as allegedly being quite smart. His actions throughout the movie contradict this as he largely makes things worse when he acts independently.
After Troy’s release the three take a job raiding a gang’s drug and cash stash. Following the success of this, they then let themselves be hired to kidnap a baby in order to ransom it. Things go south when it turns out that, while kidnapping the baby, they kill the guy they were supposed to be ransoming it back to.
The problem with this movie isn’t the idea; after all, the ‘heist gone wrong’ plot has carried a lot of great movies. The problem is the execution; the plot very quickly fizzles out and resolves itself after the bungled kidnapping. Not to mention that it keeps trying to seem deep when it’s really just your basic crime caper.
Dog Eat Dog doesn’t do anything hugely wrong, but it’s ultimately uninspired and doesn’t make good use of the acting talent it has available.
Director: Paul Schrader
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Willem Dafoe and Christopher Matthew Cook.
Running Time: 93 minutes
Release Date: 18th November 2016