Movie Review by Toby White
Starring: Mark Tonderai, Rik Billock, Nathan Constance, Gary Kemp, Crunski, Alan Davies
Director: Moody Shoaibi
There’s a bit of a catch-22 with independent cinema. You’d think, with approximately 120-odd films made independently (i.e. without studio backing) each year in Britain, that any distributor would have rich pickings for the half dozen that make it to the big screen. Look at that statistic again: 6 out of 120. Surely those that make it are exceptional? Not necessarily, because the trouble with independent cinema is that, when its low budget, it often just doesn’t have the money to give the talent the tools necessary for the job and, when the money is there, it often goes to projects that just don’t meet their potential. A huge generalisation, I know, but let’s site DOG EAT DOG as an example of the latter.
The story behind the film is a great read in itself. Moody Shoaibi (the director) and Mark Tonderai (the writer and lead actor), old friends from their TV days on UNCUT FUNK, collaborate on their debut feature, draw in some great names and exceptional new talent and get a polished project made. It’s a multi-cultural comedy with so many assets that give it such auspicious potential: a good story, a funny, pacey script, a crew with a fine CV and a cast with great chemistry. But it’s one of those one comes away from umm-ing and err-ing about. So why does it feel as though it doesn’t deliver?
DOG EAT DOG charts the trials and tribulations of a motley group of friends, each aspiring DJs and each shouldering a burden (a flighty girlfriend, a porn king chasing a debt, joblessness – the usual fayre) and trying to make ends meet as they pursue their career goal. Tonderai states that his intention was to keep the emphasis of the script set in reality, ‘no guns, no car chases’. Alas, it doesn’t really do that and perhaps this is one of its misgivings. Take a look at those burdens again. Do you know anyone that knows a porn distributor let alone would try to rip one off? And how many films that conclude with a stand-off with a crime lord can be considered real? It’s not that the story’s far-fetched, after all movies are fantasy, but their reality becomes far too farcical as they get deeper into trouble. Add to this some performances that are ridiculously caricatured (Gary Kemp’s crime boss, Jesus, and Alan Davies, as Phil, is disappointingly limp) and one’s conviction for it really starts to waver. Don’t get me wrong, it is good fun but it seems as if the film’s noble intentions are just taken too far. That said, DOG EAT DOG’s four male leads are a joy to watch. Their banter as friends, their individual idiosyncrasies and the chemistry between them is definitely genuine. And the fact they overcome the odds and even better their goal gives one a real sense of pathos. One just feels as though each of the film’s set pieces are too hit and miss.
To conclude then, it’s safe to say that while it is full of delightful moments, there are just too many weak links to keep these together and this makes the viewer of DOG EAT DOG unsure as to whether to like it or not. But let’s champion independent cinema – go and see it and make up your own mind, you never know, it might just be your thing.