Film Review: Dog Eat Dog

Dog Eat Dog

All the elements of Dog Eat Dog point to a very entertaining movie. However, the film fails to translate these ingredients into an engaging film.

When Troy is released from a long prison stint, he teams up with old friends and fellow ex-cons Mad Dog and Diesel. The trio are looking for a big pay day to see them with enough capital to go straight. The job they take on, however, proves to be complex…

Based on the novel by Edward Bunker, Matthew Wilder writes the screenplay for the film. Director Paul Schrader has attempted to craft a noirish crime thriller with Dog Eat Dog. The elements are present here; three recently released convicts looking for a pay day. Unfortunately, the plot and pacing do not convert this premise into something more. The introduction to the protagonists works well enough, as does the set up to the job. As the film continues, however, the plot gets left behind slightly to explore other aspects. There are various elements that seem to be given sufficient screen time but aren’t returned to. In this way, it feels as Dog Eat Dog was originally a much longer film that has been heavily edited. The pacing is also off; there never seems to be any real tension building.

The three main characters could have been positioned as anti-heroes of sorts. Ex-cons looking for a big job to go straight. Unfortunately, none of them are sympathetic enough to make viewers root for them. Troy is all insubstantial dialogue, Mad Dog is too volatile to be relatable, and Diesel is not developed fully. The sum of this is a mission where the audience does not care about their fates.

Dialogue in the film is very dated. This does not come across in a nostalgic throwback type of way. The racial slurs feel unnecessary, and the few women who appear are almost all prostitutes or strippers. Dog Eat Dog aims for a machoism that passed decades ago. The conversations in the film lack the naturalness of witty, but disposable dialogue that the film appears to be aiming for.

The visual effects do not add a great deal, but one late in the film is rather impressive. The use of colour is very noticeable, but not particularly effective. Nicolas Cage is hammy, this might have been fine or enjoyable in a better film. Willem Dafoe is good, but is crying out for better material.

Dog Eat Dog looks like it will be a lot of fun on the surface, but the reality is disappointing.

Dog Eat Dog is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.

BFI London Film Festival 2016 Launch

Today saw the launch of the BFI London Film Festival 2016. This year’s programme is bursting with cinematic delights. There are more galas than in previous years, and screen talk participants include Werner Herzog and Paul Verhoeven. Here are some of the films to look out for at London Film Festival 2016.

Headline Galas

The Birth of a Nation

The London Film Festival 2016’s opening gala A United Kingdom had already been announced, the Scorsese-produced, Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire looks like a lot of fun. Elsewhere, plenty of hotly anticipated films including La La Land, Arrival and The Birth of a Nation. Writer-director Nate Parker also stars in the story of an enslaved preacher who led a revolt in 1830s Virginia. Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals is also a headline gala. An adaptation of Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan, the film stars Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon. Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe stars David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o.

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

The Handmaiden

This year sees additional galas, which will take place on a purpose built venue on the Strand. They include The Handmaiden, from director Chan-wook Park. The film looks as sumptuous as Park’s previous film Stoker. Miles Teller stars in Bleed For This, based on the true story of boxer Vinny Paziena. Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq is the Sonic Gala. The hip hop musical features Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson. Andrea Arnold’s American Honey and Ava DuVernay’s The 13th are among the special presentations this year.

Official Competition

My Life As A Courgette

Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is amongst the Official Competition at London Film Festival 2016. Staring Isabelle Huppert, the film is an adaptation of a Philippe Dijan novel. Terence Davies’ A Quiet Presentation is a biopic of Emily Dickinson staring Cynthia Nixon. Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, about a young man struggling with his sexuality in 1980s Miami, looks like a great watch. In the First Feature Competition, Porto sees one of Anton Yelchin’s final performances, whilst animation My Life As A Courgette looks like a lot of fun. David Lynch: The Art Life is among the contenders for the Documentary Competition, as well as The Graduation. The latter is a documentary about a prestigious film school in Paris. Chasing Asylum, about the Australian government’s immigration policies, seems very topical.


The Salesman

The Love strand features Lovesong, director So Yong Kim’s film about a lonely young mother. It stars Jena Malone and Riley Keough. Highlights in the Debate category include Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman. A Separation‘s Farhadi has already won awards at Cannes. Mindhorn features in the Laugh strand. The film stars Julian Barratt as a washed-up 1980s TV detective. Dare features Christine, starring Rebecca Hall as the notorious television journalist. Paul Schrader’s Dog Eat Dog looks to be a highlight of the Thrill section, with Nicholas Cage starring alongside Willem Dafoe. Another David Lynch connection (Cage and Dafoe starred in Lynch’s Wild at Heart), Blue Velvet Revisited, features in the Cult strand.

I Am Not A Serial Killer

Cult also features I Am Not A Serial Killer, based on the young adult novel. The Innocents looks to be a highlight of the Journey strand. Anne Fontaine’s film is about a young doctor working for the French Red Cross in 1945. London Town, a coming of age film set in 1979 London, features in the Sonic strand. The Family strand includes Rock Dog, an animation featuring the voices of J.K. Simmons and Luke Wilson. Finally, Experimenta includes Have You Seen My Movie?; a must-see for cinema fans.

The full London Film Festival 2016 programme can be viewed here. The BFI London Film Festival runs from 5th-16th October 2016.