(US/UK - 2016)
Directed by Paul Schrader. Written by Matthew Wilder. Cast: Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Matthew Cook, Paul Schrader, Omar Dorsey, Louisa Krause, Melissa Bolona, Rey Gallegos, Nicky Whelan, Chelcie Melton, Ali Wasdovich, Louis Anthony Perez, Magi Avila, Robert Maples. (Unrated, 93 mins)
After a pair of misfires with the crowd-funded THE CANYONS and the disowned DYING OF THE LIGHT, Paul Schrader returns with the crime drama DOG EAT DOG. The now-70-year-old Schrader, best known for his numerous collaborations with Martin Scorsese (he wrote TAXI DRIVER and RAGING BULL, among others) and directing his own films like BLUE COLLAR, AMERICAN GIGOLO, and AFFLICTION, is a filmmaker who seems to seek out conflict, with his head-butting with the producers of DYING OF THE LIGHT a virtual replay of his battles over his EXORCIST prequel DOMINION a decade earlier. Still bitter over having DYING OF THE LIGHT taken away from him in post, Schrader had final cut worked into his deal on DOG EAT DOG, and for a while, it's his most inspired work in years. Working from a novel by ex-con Edward Bunker (who co-wrote RUNAWAY TRAIN and played Mr. Blue in RESERVOIR DOGS), adapted by Matthew Wilder, Schrader is unapologetically making the movie he wants to make with DOG EAT DOG, jettisoning the faux indie pretensions of THE CANYONS but really showing a lack of discipline and focus at times. It jumps all over the place stylistically, playing with color and black & white, framing shots in odd ways, and displaying a fair degree of surrealism. Its tics and flourishes at times recall Oliver Stone's NATURAL BORN KILLERS, but there's no real reason for it. He's trying to gussy up a talky, character-driven crime story, but in doing so, he undermines his actors. There's some terrific stuff in DOG EAT DOG, but it mostly comes off like a coked-up and frequently grotesque KILLING THEM SOFTLY.
Note: in the interest of full disclosure, I was once Facebook friends with DOG EAT DOG screenwriter Matthew Wilder, until he unfriended and blocked me over my dislike of Jean-Luc Godard's FILM SOCIALISME, creating the hashtag #attackfilmsocialismeanddie. I have had no contact with him since.