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Dog Eat Dog Blu-ray Review

Dog Eat Dog (2016) movie poster Dog Eat Dog

Theatrical Release: November 4, 2016 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Paul Schrader / Writers: Matthew Wilder (screenplay); Edward Bunker (book)

Cast: Nicolas Cage (Troy), Willem Dafoe (John Aloysius "Mad Dog" McCain), Christopher Matthew Cook (Diesel), Omar Dorsey (Moon Man), Louisa Krause (Zoe), Melissa Bolona (Lina), Rey Gallegos (Chepe), Chelcie Melton (Sheila), Paul Schrader (El Greco), Nicky Whelan (Daniece)

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These days, I cannot seem to review a Nicolas Cage movie without commenting on how his career has fallen off in the past nine years. So as not to repeat myself, I vow to be different on Dog Eat Dog.
For one thing, although top-billed, Cage isn't the driving force of this movie. That would be director Paul Schrader, whose style-heavy approach seems to be the biggest reason this crime drama goes bizarrely off the rails to no one's entertainment.

Cage plays Troy, one of three ex-cons the film centers on. Fresh out of jail, Troy lands a job for he and his two colleagues, the unpredictable Mad Dog (Willem Dafoe) and large but thoughtful Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook). They are to pose as cops and shake down a criminal for money and product. That plot doesn't seem to be of great interest to Schrader, who is still best known for writing Taxi Driver and Raging Bull for Martin Scorsese. He's more concerned here with creating and sustaining a fever pitch tone.

Troy (Nicolas Cage) tells a prostitute about Nice, France in "Dog Eat Dog."

Your early impression of this film may be of one wild and crazy ride, as a cocaine-fueled Mad Dog rips a phone out of the wall in response to prying telemarketer call (during which he gives his occupation as a fish gutter) before stabbing to death a sometimes sexual partner and shooting her teenaged daughter.

While seemingly anything could happen here, after that, nothing terribly interesting does. Troy invites a $1,500 stripper-prostitute to Nice, France with him. There is a shirtless condiment fight presented as a fleeting flashback. Money changes hands. Drugs and alcohol are consumed. Lots of obscenities and racist remarks are uttered. A female police officer is punched in the face repeatedly in a grocery store parking lot.

You can't blame Schrader for the story, which is credited to novice Matthew Wilder (who wrote and directed the little-seen Bill Pullman vehicle Your Name Here eight years ago), adapting a 1995 novel by the late writer-actor Edward Bunker. But any allure to the text gets drowned out by Schrader, who applies heavy style to no obvious gain. The finale sees Cage adopting a Humphrey Bogart accent while hijacking the car of an elderly black reverend and his wife. That's probably as watchable and describable as this aimless, meandering trip gets.

Troy's partners in crime are fellow ex-cons Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook) and Mad Dog (Willem Dafoe).

Dog Eat Dog was one of the 336 films deemed eligible for 2016 Academy Award consideration, although there is little evidence that it actually played in theaters beginning in its stated release date
of November despite inspiring a few dozen critic reviews, most of them quite negative. This week, the movie hit Blu-ray and DVD looking like yet another direct-to-video Cage movie of minimal appeal. Probably best to save that gift card for something else. Cage used to be interesting enough to make even a bad movie watchable, but no longer bothering to adopt a distinct look and voice, his work has become easy to miss and difficult to regret doing so.

Schrader, who turned 70 over the summer, has had very little success since he shifted from writing and writing-directing to mostly just directing at the turn of the millennium. He hasn't been at the helm of an acclaimed film since 2002's Auto Focus and as a director has yet to top his 1998 dark drama Affliction, which won James Coburn an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Though not rated by the MPAA, Dog Eat Dog obviously would earn an R for its content.

Dog Eat Dog Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: December 27, 2016
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.97
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on DVD ($29.96 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Dog Eat Dog often opts for bold color and camera angles. The Blu-ray offers the 2.40:1 presentation without any concerns, but the film gives you plenty of those dramatically. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is fine without being remarkable in any way.

No, that's not Prince. It's Nicolas Cage in tinted sunglasses and a purple dress jacket answering questions at Beyond Fest. For his taped introduction to the film's Toronto International Film Festival premiere, Nic Cage doesn't even have his phone held the right way.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray includes four extras. First up is a 53-second video introduction from Nicolas Cage,

filmed on a cell phone (narrow screen, no less) and screened before the movie's premiere at September's Toronto International Film Festival.

Next, we get a Q & A with Cage and Paul Schrader (25:08) at Beyond Fest from later that month. Cage, seemingly paying homage to Prince with a purple suit and eager to drop the names of his other movies, and his director confess they were figuring things out as they went along, including Cage's Bogart impression. This seems as close to an apology as the two will be making for this soon-forgotten film.

Then, we get a screen-specific feature audio commentary on the film by Schrader, who further defends his no-rules method, the inconsistent style, his performance in a supporting role, and the end credits' Porter Wagoner dubstep. Detailing every actor's casting, acknowledging his influences, and explaining where his film fits in the context of crime films, Schrader is passionate and has clearly poured plenty of thought into the film, but his voice is annoying and his film is pretty unbearable. So this will be a pass for the majority of people.

Finally, the extras draw to a close with a photo gallery whose 13 images aren't as sharp as you'd like them to be.

The disc opens with trailers for Cage's Rage, John Travolta's Criminal Activities, and Pierce Brosnan's I.T. None of these are accessible by menu and Dog Eat Dog's own trailer is absent.

The menu loops a montage of some of the film's more actiony shots. The disc doesn't support bookmarks, but does resume unfinished playback.

Without a digital copy included here, no inserts accompany the full-color disc inside the side-snapped keepcase, which is topped by an embossed slipcover reproducing the same title-centric artwork.

Troy (Nicolas Cage) makes a phone call from the parking lot of Apples, where some things with the police go down.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I hoped that Dog Eat Dog would at least be off-the-wall enough to appreciate in the way that some of Cage's bizarre yet entertaining recent work is. But no, this crime drama gets dull in a hurry as it asks us to spend time with uninteresting ex-cons as they perform uninspiring jobs. While this barely qualifies, it does stand as one of 2016's least appealing theatrical releases.

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Related Reviews:
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Nicolas Cage: Pay the Ghost The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans Left Behind Outcast Seeking Justice Stolen
Willem Dafoe: Platoon Tomorrow You're Gone The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done Spider-Man
Paul Schrader: The Last Temptation of Christ Taxi Driver

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Reviewed December 28, 2016.



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