Even in the Platinum Age of Television, there isn’t anything like Paul Schrader’s Dog Eat Dog. Adapted from an Eddie Bunker novel, Dog Eat Dog is a gross and engrossing, surreal and satirical crime film about three ex-cons pulling jobs to make ends meet. While the leader of the pack is played by a subdued Nicolas Cage, the center of the movie, a drug-addled hothead who wants nothing more than “unconditional love,” is played by Willem Dafoe, in one of our favorite male performances this year. Meanwhile, in a remarkable supporting acting turn, Christopher Matthew Cook plays the tight-lipped muscle of the trio, commanding as much attention as the better known stars. Schrader, given what was a minuscule budget, optimizes everything: Dog Eat Dog is cleverly shot and edited, and beautifully composed. For those who turn their noses up at genre for being brainless, consider this movie’s main theme: feeling remote from the cultural landscape in a decade of Facebook and Taylor Swift. You don’t need to have been incarcerated for ten years to relate to that.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White