Yet another bonkers thriller starring Nicolas Cage, this trashy crime comedy comes from director Paul Schrader, who wrote classics like Taxi Driver before turning director with American Gigolo. This movie has a kitsch tone as it spirals through a violently absurd story with a bunch of idiots who shoot first and then realise they can't ask any questions now. There are some intriguing issues gurgling under the surface, although they're kind of swamped by the mayhem.
It's set in Cleveland, where Troy (Cage) has just been released from prison and rejoins his buddies Mad Dog and Diesel (Willem Dafoe and Christopher Matthew Cook). Unable to get real jobs because they're ex-cons, they have no choice but to turn back to crime to make a living. So they contact mob boss El Greco (Schrader himself) for some freelance work. Their first job is ruthlessly convincing a gangsta-rapper (Omar J. Dorsey) to give them his drugs and cash. And then they move on to an even bigger target, the Latino kingpin Chepe (Reynaldo Gallegos). To get to him, they decide to kidnap the infant child of Brennan (Louis Perez), who is heavily in Chepe's debt. The problem is that Troy, Mad Dog and Diesel have no clue what they're doing, so the plan spirals out of control immediately.
The film looks almost swampy with its deep shadows and lurid colours, complete with visual flourishes that include wacky visual effects and clips shot in murky black and white. In other words, it's all very cool and nasty, with violence that's both unexpected and very grisly. People die horribly in almost every scene, but this seems to be rather run-of-the-mill for both the cops and criminals in this strata of society. No one has even a hint of a moral compass here; their goal is just to grab whatever they can. Cage gives another of his enjoyably deranged performances as Troy, bouncing hilariously off of Dafoe and Cook's carelessly murderous goons.
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