An armed robbery gone wrong turns into a deadly road trip, and then into a lethal pileup of genre clichés, in the schlocky French action thriller, Rabid Dogs (Enragés). Remaking a seldom seen 1974 film by Italian horror meister Mario Bava, producer-turned-director Eric Hannezo’s debut feature showcases some skill in the craft department, but remains a strictly B-level enterprise in terms of content. Offshore VOD slots and a small theatrical release at home are where this untamed dog will lie.
Channeling the stylistic verve of Drive and the underlying sophistication of a Steven Seagal movie, the plot follows three ex-cons who take down a bank before fleeing town with two hostages in tow: a gorgeous lingerie salesgirl (Virginie Ledoyen) and a worrywart dad (Lambert Wilson) whose daughter needs urgent medical care.
A slickly made, supremely silly update of Mario Bava’s 1974 thriller
The gangsters are all fairly generic characters, although each has their own special tick: crew leader Sabri (Guillaume Gouix) cannot conceal his inner rage; loose cannon Vincent (Francois Arnaud) is the resident psychotic; and scaredy-cat Manu (Franck Gastambide) is too quick on the draw, complicating their escape from the cops.
A well-designed opening is intense enough to keep one interested, with DP Kamal Derkaoui (The Tall Man) capturing the multiple shootouts, car crashes and self-serious dialogs in polished widescreen compositions. From there, the trio and their captives head to the countryside, making various stops along the way – including a spooky gas station and a backwoods town where a bizarre local ritual is taking place.
Not for a minute does anyone stop to wonder what all these Frenchies are doing in a place that clearly isn’t France. (The film was shot in Canada, but there are no Quebecois accents here.) Hannezo obviously wanted a certain picturesque setting, but the decision winds up hampering the narrative, as do the increasingly outlandish twists that pervade the final act – including an ultimate whammy meant to throw the entire movie into a new light, although it just make it seem that much cheesier.
Performances are passable if never subtle, while Ledoyen is definitely given one of the least flattering roles of her career, appearing first on screen in a Victoria’s Secret getup and spending the rest of the film getting sexually harassed in the backseat of the getaway car. Wilson is given a bit more legroom, even if his character’s constant pleas about his daughter are about as convincing as the red-filtered flashbacks meant to reveal why the bad guys are bad in the first place.
Alongside the polished lensing and crafty production design (by Jean-Andre Carriere, Brick Mansions), music by Laurent Eyquem (Copperhead) keeps things moving while recalling the groovy electro scores of Giallo classics by Bava and Dario Argento.
Production companies: Black Dynamite Films, JD Prod
Cast: Lambert Wilson, Virginie Ledoyen, Guillaume Gouix, Francois Arnaud, Franck Gastambide
Director: Eric Hannezo
Screenwriter: Eric Hannezo, based on the film “I Cani Arrabbiati” by Mario Bava
Producer: Marc Dujardin
Director of photography: Kamal Derkaoui
Production designer: Jean-Andre Carriere
Costume designer: Odette Gadoury
Editor: Arthur Tarnowski
Composer: Laurent Eyquem
International sales: Wild Bunch
No rating, 100 minutes