The story of three men who are all out of prison and now have the task of adapting themselves to civilian life. The California three strikes law looms over them, but what the hell, they're going to do it, and they're going to do it their way. Troy, an aloof mastermind, seeks an uncomplicated, clean life but cannot get away from his hatred for the system. Diesel is on the mob's payroll and his interest in his suburban home and his nagging wife is waning. The loose cannon of the trio, Mad Dog, is possessed by true demons within, which lead him from one situation to the next. One more hit, one more jackpot, and they'll all be satisfied.
I would definitely go as far as to say that Paul Schrader is a legendary writer and filmmaker. He worked with Martin Scorsese as the writer for 'Taxi Driver', 'Raging Bull', and 'The Last Temptation of Christ', as well as direct 'Hardcore', 'American Gigolo', and 'Light of Day' to name a few. It's no surprise that Schrader has jumped head first into the violent genre more than once during his career and has succeeded at it almost every time. This year, Schrader has once again teamed with Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe to make 'Dog Eat Dog', a super violent and over-the-top crime film with no apologies for what it shows.
The film is based on the novel of the same name from 1995 by real criminal turn author Edward Bunker. The film closed the Cannes Film Festival last year, but won no awards. It's low budget and unapologetic views in its actions and characters might turn quite a few people away from this film, even in the first couple of minutes, but as the film goes on, we see that Schrader had intentions with each character in not showing their warm fluffy side, which comes off as a breath of fresh air in this violent crime genre. We don't always need to relate to every character in a movie to enjoy it. I'm just glad Schrader had complete control of the film, but it came at a price in the budget, which affected some of the story telling.
'Dog Eat Dog' follows three criminals who are on their last strike with the law and their mob bosses. They are Troy (Nic Cage), Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook), and Mad Dog (Willem Dafoe), with Troy being the leader and most sane person of the trio and Mad Dog as someone who rightly earns his name - Mad Dog. The three are either going to end up in jail or pull off one last job to set them up financially for life, which is kidnapping a baby of a new mob boss for a big ransom. Of course, things don't go as planned and the three criminals must do whatever it costs to stay alive. With Schrader having complete control of the film here, we don't see that connection with the nice side of humanity here in the way that we've seen in previous films.
These guys are bad guys for sure, and you don't really want to root for them, but all have satisfying and the correct conclusions in their story lines, which makes this film feel original and fresh. Schrader uses some simple camera tricks throughout to make the film a bit more artsy than it needs to by adding filters or switching to black and white in certain scenes, which reminded me of Oliver Stone's 'Natural Born Killers'. It has a good effect on the over film, but wasn't necessary.
Dafoe and Cage turn in great performances too with Cage turning in a surprisingly low key performance that could have gone off the rails at any moment. He's more subdued here and it goes a long way. There are some definite plot holes here and there, but when the characters are concerned, the film succeeds and takes you on a brutal journey that it doesn't apologize for, and you have to respect that.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Dog Eat Dog' comes with a 25GB Blu-ray Disc from RLJ Entertainment and is Region A Locked. There is no insert or digital download code here. The disc is housed in a hard, blue plastic case with a cardboard sleeve.
'Dog Eat Dog' comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. This film was shot digitally with a ton of filters and different post production effects. That means there are some slight issues with the video presentation in the way of aliasing and banding here and there. Detail is sharp and vivid for the most part, but a lot of the filters make things look a bit flat and soft from time to time.
This could be a product of the low budget and short time they had to edit it all, but it still exists. Closeups reveal some gory wounds and nice facial features, while the wardrobe reveals the fine stitching in each costume. Colors look good too, but I wouldn't say they pop off screen at any given time. This is a dark film both tonally and visually. The black levels are deep and inky and the skin tones look natural when there are no filters. All that being said, this video presentation is good.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and does a good job within its boundaries. Again, this being a fairly inexpensive production, the sound design wasn't on a $100 million budget soundscape. Sound effects are full, but never overly loud or really pack a big punch. Instead, things sound a little softer and maybe that enhances this gritty film, because it feels a bit more real.
The surround effects and ambient noises come through nicely, but rarely make their appearance to give a fully immersive experience. The music always adds to the suspense without drowning out any other sound effects. Dialogue is clear and easy to follow, despite some of the dialects, and is free of any pops, cracks, hiss, or shrills.
Audio Commentary - Director Paul Schrader delivers a very fun and informative scene specific commentary, where he is no holds barred on the mic. He talks about casting, working without studio interference, and even discusses his mistakes and working on the screenplay and not knowing really where to go. It's a very candid commentary and is much appreciated, but you can definitely tell he knows and is passionate about filmmaking.
Q&A with Nicolas Cage and Paul Schrader (HD, 25 Mins.) - Both Cage and Schrader answer audience questions about their film, careers, and life. What an engaging and fun extra for sure.
Nicolas Cage Video Introduction (SD, 1 Min.) - Shot on an iPhone vertically, this is Cage talking about the film.
Photo Gallery (HD) - Some production photos from the film.
Trailers (HD, 7 Mins.) - Trailers for other films.
'Dog Eat Dog' is not a perfect film. In fact, it has quite a few problems with plot holes and editing. That all being said, the performances, characters, and unapologetic take of this crime film is truly original and fresh, bringing new life to this B-movie genre. The video and audio presentations are both good and the extras are all worth watching. Despite the plot mistakes, this is worth a look.