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Dog Eat Dog

Paul SchraderUSA93 minutes201618AColourB&WEnglish

Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe star in this blackly comic crime caper from director Paul Schrader (Affliction, The Walker), about a crew of ex-cons hired by a Cleveland mafioso to kidnap the baby of a rival mobster.

Troy (Nicolas Cage), Mad Dog (Willem Dafoe), and Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook) are three ex-cons looking for a payday, a final big score that will be their ticket to an early retirement. Luckily, mafioso "The Greek" (a cameo by director Paul Schrader) has just the job for them: kidnapping a mobster's baby. Deep down, they know this is a bad idea, but does that stop them? Of course not. Pitch-black hilarity ensues.

Based on a 1995 novel by writer and ex-convict Edward Bunker (who co-wrote the scripts for Straight Time, Animal Factory, and Runaway Train, and played Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs), this scrappy potboiler starts out over the top and becomes increasingly unhinged. Cage and Dafoe go head to head as a pair of sad but brutal two-time losers — Mad Dog is a pill-popping, cocaine-snorting psycho, while Troy is basically Cage delivering the best Bogart impression of this year or any other — anchored by Cook's performance as a hulking enforcer with a hilarious penchant for introspection.

As the trio carry out their baby-napping scheme with increasing levels of ineptitude, it becomes clear that they're in way over their heads. Too crazy to quit, they charge ahead with gleeful and anarchic abandon. Bullets fly and brains splatter in the Cleveland underworld's neon-flooded dens of iniquity as our constantly hopped-up heroes try to find redemption in that fateful "one last job."

Schrader pulls off one of the year's wildest films with charm and flair to spare. A hyper-stylized, luridly colourful drug trip, Dog Eat Dog crosses several lines that mainstream viewers might balk at, but Midnight Madness audiences will be cheering every step of the way.

COLIN GEDDES

ViolenceUSACrime