2016 Certificate: 18

Synopsis

A trio of ex-cons - taciturn leader Troy (Nicolas Cage), motormouthed psycho Mad Dog (Willem Dafoe) and heavyweight Diesel (Christopher Matthew Cook) - are looking for a big score so they can pay off a debt and retire to Hawaii. But Troy's plan to kidnap a mobster's baby turns out to be a bad idea. Very, very bad. Cage returns to the wobbly, baby-snatching ground of Raising Arizona in this class-A shot of macho craziness from maverick director Paul Schrader. Based on the novel by reformed criminal-turned-Reservoir Dog Eddie Bunker.

Director

  • Paul Schrader

Cast

  • Nicolas Cage

  • Willem Dafoe

  • Christopher Matthew Cook

  • Paul Schrader

  • Johanna McGinley

  • Magi Avila

  • Louisa Krause

Review

A trio of nihilistic gangsters get the gig of kidnapping a one-year-old infant as a means of extracting money owed from the kid's reneging criminal dad. It's Three Mobsters and a Baby.

Except it doesn't turn out that way.

After capturing said nipper, mastermind Troy (Cage), a romantic ex-con with a murderous streak, Diesel (Cook), a friendless, institutionalised crimmo and Mad Dog (Dafoe), a deranged psychotic permanently off the rails, lock it in a derelict suburban house with the maid.

However a glitch in their operation means their tiny victim has no monetary value so the desperate trio find their thuggish ménage-a-trois unspooling as the loyalty they held so much store by fizzles out in a wisp of cordite fumes.

Director Paul Schrader - who most memorably wrote the script for Taxi Driver - is no stranger to a sordid underworld where three no-hopers entertain a self-deluded optimism that the final pay day is just around the corner.

Set in the depressed American city of Cleveland, this is a grimly bleak neverland where meetings take place in grubby strip clubs (obviously, with benefits), down time is lived out - fuelled by booze and coke - in shabby motels and the constant, chaotic search for a meaning to life ends in a dead end.

Cage's Troy is a greasy, loved up charismatic (his attempt to woo a bemused hooker on a weekend break to Nice is a cracker) while Dafoe chills as the hair-triggered Mad Dog, particularly after we witness him waste his reluctant lover and her teenage daughter in an X-rated opening scene.

The subject matter may be familiar but Schrader and screenwriter Matthew Wilder unashamedly relish the possibilities offered by a go-for-broke storyline that sees Cage and Dafoe having a fine old time, even if audiences may struggle to make a connection with such an amoral trio of wrong 'uns.

Tim Evans