Another year, another Nicolas Cage film you never knew existed but which somehow got made and was released when you weren't looking. Dog Eat Dog can now be found on Netflix, it co-stars Willem Dafoe and it is, believe it not, pretty good.
The opening sequence of the film is arguably one of last year's most brutal scenes, which sets the tone for Dafoe's character, a pathetic yet psychopathic ex-con nicknamed "Mad Dog" who joins his partners in crime Troy (Nicolas Cage) and Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook) for one last job. Directed by veteran filmmaker Paul Schrader, known for co-writing some of Martin Scorsese's very best films and for making off-beat thrillers himself, Dog Eat Dog definitely has a quirky plot that feels like something the Coen Brothers would tackle or have tackled since one of the scenes even involves Cage stealing a baby à la Raising Arizona. There is humour in the film but the several funny lines or moments you'll find are super dark. This is not really a comedy but it's also not really a crime thriller and yet it's a bit of both as well. The aforementioned "one last job" only takes place about halfway into the film and it's more of a quick build-up to the third act than it is the main focus throughout.
Dog Eat Dog is, first and foremost, a character piece following three extremely flawed characters who want to redeem themselves but who are way too far gone. In terms of the cinematography, the film tries a lot of different techniques to tell its story from using a lot of pink and blue filters to speeded-up montages and one scene shot in black-and-white for some reason. This can be distracting at times but it also sets the film apart from other similar movies in the same genre: a Coen Brothers film this definitely isn't. For those looking to see Nicolas Cage act crazy, there are definitely a couple of moments in there where Cage does his thing but this is one of the good ones. Like The Frozen Ground or even The Trust, this is one of the actually decent Nicolas Cage movies that sadly gets lumped in with the many other less-than-stellar efforts the actor is synonymous with these days. I would recommend checking this one out if you're a fan of the actor or even if you're not.
Dog Eat Dog has its surprisingly harsh moments so don't go in expecting only Tarantino-esque banter and Western-style shoot-outs. You never quite know where the film is going, which is refreshing since its synopsis suggests a predictable movie, and it's overall a genuinely compelling character study with Willem Dafoe stealing the show thanks to a reliably nutty performance.