CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS
In this ever-changing world in which we live in, while governments and nations sway this way and that, it's important to cling on to the absolute certainties. Water is wet, the sky is blue, political types are most likely talking through their hats and Nicolas Cage continues to overact in DTV time-passer movies that are deemed worthy of the most token theatrical releases before the level playing field of the supermarket DVD racks. Time was when, like Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, a new Nicolas Cage movie would play at least the bigger 'plexes, but these days it's a few prints at most to garner some enthusiastic critical pullquotes for the DVD release. A tactic that can only work if the movies are any good and, in these two instances at least, they're really not.
Southern Fury was originally called Arsenal and, to paraphrase Red Dwarf's Holly, is indeed a steaming pile of Tottenham. Indeed, the only highpoint in an otherwise glum and unlikeable thriller is Mr Cage, decked out in a silly moustache and Anton Chigurh hairdo and overacting like he's being paid extra for every mile over the top. Set somewhere in a Deep South loserville, it tells of two brothers: one an ex-military drug addict, the younger a successful construction boss. Desperate for money, the elder brother teams up with the local crime boss (Cage) to fake his kidnapping for a healthy ransom...
It's not very good: as so often happens it's impossible to care what happens to a gallery of deeply unsympathetic characters and, as so often happens, it all ends in a ludicrous bullet frenzy of the kind John Woo was a master and Steven C Miller (auteur behind terrible Santa slasher Silent Night) is not. The final reel is enhanced with super slo-motion CGI bullets and blood squirts, which obviously look terrible, and the cops are noticeable by their almost total absence from the corpse-strewn proceedings except for John Cusack for no good reason, provoking an all-encompassing response of "yeah, whatever".
You'd expect Dog Eat Dog to be at least slightly better, given that Paul Schrader is a filmmaker with an impressive list of credits including Cat People and American Gigolo as well as scripts for Martin Scorsese. Which makes it all the more remarkable that he's recently directed Dying Of The Light (which was notoriously taken away from him in the edit) and The Canyons (which probably should have been): uninteresting nonsense films that don't even look good. Coming across like The Three Stooges Do Tarantino, it has a trio of staggeringly idiotic ex-cons looking for one big score and finding it in a kidnapping plot which inevitably goes horribly wrong. While Southern Fury was grim and miserable, this has bouts of what might be charitably described as jet black comedy but can be more accurately read as repulsive and tasteless knockabout. Cage is less unhinged than usual, with none of his trademark bug-eyed shouty freakouts or silly voices, though he does spend his last scenes pretending to be Humphrey Bogart.
Some startling moments of gore and what I guess is supposed to be hilarious violence (Willem Dafoe bloodily knifing an overweight woman to death in the opening sequence) aside, it's all very unedifying and - cue cut and paste from two paragraphs back - it's impossible to care what happens. The three leads are hideous scumbags and/or imbeciles, no-one deserves your sympathy, and the film doesn't even bother to wrap up its botched kidnap plot. Neither film is worth the rental fee or the ninety-odd minutes of your evening; Dog Eat Dog is the slightly more entertaining of the two but Southern Fury hasn't set the bar very high.