Monday, 5 September 2016

DOG EAT DOG - Review By Greg Klymkiw - TIFF 2016 - Schrader NailsBunker Book Bigtime

Dog Eat Dog (2016)
Dir. Paul Schrader
Scr. Matthew Wilder
Nvl. Edward Bunker
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Matthew Cook

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The first few minutes of Paul Schrader's sprightly and downright buoyant film adaptation of Edward Bunker's classic crime novel Dog Eat Dog plunges us into a kaleidoscopic, drug-fueled fantasia via Willem Dafoe (as the appropriately monikered "Mad Dog"). This juicily ramps up to one of the most shocking acts of violence imaginable, at least within the oh-so-tender context of Mad Dog promising his porcine "lady love" some good lovin' and a mess o' delectable short ribs. And then the picture forcibly butt-blasts us raw into an even more appalling "OH-FUCK-NO-REALLY?" salvo of horrifyingly hilarious carnage. At this point, it's obvious how terrific this movie is going to be.

This is no surprise, really. As the screenwriter of Taxi Driver and director of Blue Collar, Hardcore, Light Sleeper, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, American Gigolo, Auto Focus and the insanely brilliant and unfairly-drubbed The Canyons, the very idea of Schrader directing a Bunker adaptation makes the mouth water. The execution goes well beyond anticipatory salivation - he pins us to the floor and fiercely has his way with us. And we cum and we cum and we cum.

Troy (Nicolas Cage) is the snaky, charming mastermind behind the Holy Trinity of ex-cons which includes the aforementioned Mad Dog and the burly Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook). After performing a series of small-money scams, which they pull off by the barely competent skins of their wobbly teeth, Troy decides the time is right for the ultimate crime-fueled payday. The Greek (Schrader himself, in a gruffly funny turn) offers them the job of a lifetime; their lifetime, anyway. A scumbag gangster owes The Greek a whack of dough and the job is to kidnap the thug's baby for a princely ransom.

To say things go smoothly might be an understatement, but the major league fumbles guarantee knee-slappers aplenty and blood-soaked shenanigans of the most lovingly repellent kind.

Screenwriter Matthew Wilder deftly updates Bunker's book (a period piece would clearly have cost a small fortune and might well have been un-financeable given the film's darkly hilarious overtones) and shifting the locale from Los Angeles to Cleveland manages to up the ante on the sleaze factor most succulently. 

Schrader's visual palate is gorgeously achieved by the sturdy, no-holds-barred lensing of Alexander Dynan, and ranges from grimy 70s filthiness to fine-grained monochrome to out-and-out blasts of garishly happy 80s colour - splashing across the screen like Jackson Pollock on crystal meth. The cutting of Ben Rodriguez Jr. appropriately jettisons the action along without resorting to unnecessary wham-bam-thank-you-M'am gymnastics and both the music and design elements add oodles of panache to the proceedings.

Dog Eat Dog is one of the best crime pictures of the year, but most of all, it had me soaring out of the cinema feeling like a helium balloon (especially when Cage delivers a moving Bogart riff).

Oh yeah, and it has plenty of nudity. One can never go wrong with that.


Dog Eat Dog plays Midnight Madness at TIFF 2016