TIFF16: Dog Eat Dog

Three ex-cons get together for one last job in Dog Eat Dog. Troy (Nicolas Cage) has just gotten out of prison and is reunited with his crew of Mad Dog (Willem Dafoe) and Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook). Looking for one big score to retire on, Troy accepts a job from El Grecco (Paul Schrader), which involves kidnapping a one year old child and holding him for ransom. However, the job doesn’t really turn out as planned.

Paul Schrader made a name for himself in the 1970s and 1980s as the screenwriter of such classics as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and American Gigolo. However, his more recent work is spotty at best. While I found his 2008 holocaust drama Adam Resurrected somewhat watchable, his 2013 film The Canyons is absolutely atrocious. Dog Eat Dog began seeming like it would be an ultra violent, yet fun to watch dark comedy. However, the film quickly devolves into nothing more than a big huge mess.

If there is a shining star to Dog Eat Dog, it is Willem Dafoe as the psychotic Mad Dog, who is responsible for most of the aforementioned ultra-violence. However, it’s not enough to save a film that is at times too dark and also doesn’t seem to have a real sense of direction. From psychedelic drug trips to ketchup and mustard fights, Dog Eat Dog really seems to be throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the screen. By the time Nicolas Cage starts acting like Humphrey Bogart, the film had completely lost me and my faith in Paul Schrader as a filmmaker.

4 / 10 stars


  • Friday, September 16, 11:59 PM – Ryerson Theatre
  • Saturday, September 17, 6:45 PM – Hot Docs Cinema
  • Sunday, September 18, 3:45 PM – Scotiabank Theatre 12
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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).