Rabid Dogs ✮✮1/2
Heist Minus a Hitch
by Glenn Lovell
Blame Luc Besson. The French producer-director started the ball rolling with “La Femme Nikita,” a super-slick tale of revenge and reconditioning that begat a cottage industry of high-octane crime movies that were closer to videogames than your standard-issue pulp fiction. Among the most entertaining of this new breed of French thriller: “District B13” and, more recently, “Point Blank.”
You can add this redo of Mario Bava’s 1974 thriller to this popular sub-genre. Like “Reservoir Dogs” and Kubrick’s “The Killing,” Eric Hannezo’s “Rabid Dogs” (in French with English subtitles) is a compact, fast-moving tale of a heist that goes spectacularly wrong. We open as the robbers flee a bank with $2 million. Their getaway proves an object lesson in how not to get away. The leader, wounded, commits suicide by cop and the three remaining thugs take hostages — a newlywed (Virginie Ledoyen) and a father (Lambert Wilson) driving his heavily sedated four-year-old to the hospital for what he describes as a life-saving transplant operation.
As the clock ticks down from midday Friday to early Saturday morning, the bad guys fight among themselves and leave a trail of corpses in their wake. Meanwhile, the father and woman bide their time, waiting for their captors to drop their guard.
What “Rabid Dogs,” now available on VOD, lacks in plot it more than makes up for in flashy camera work and kinetic energy. You won’t be bored, that’s for sure. In quick succession we get a gas station shootout, a run-in with motorcycle cops, and the obligatory roadblock. After five hours on the road, a detour — into a village celebrating a bacchanal called Feast of the Bear. Next to the rowdy locals, the bad guys look like pussycats. Unfortunately, Hannezo doesn’t do anything with this. And before we know it, we’re back on the road.
Like the Bava original, the remake comes with a surprise ending that explains a lot about why the father isn’t as proactive as he might be. It’s a delicious twist that, alas, comes too late. If Hitchcock had made this film, he would have tipped his hand earlier. That way we could savor the situation for an hour instead of a few minutes.
RABID DOGS With Lambert Wilson, Virginie Ledoyen, Guillaume Gouix, Francois Arnaud, Franck Gastambide. Directed by Eric Hannezo; scripted by Yannick Dahan, Benjamin Rataud, Hannezo from a Michael J. Carroll short story. 100 min. Unrated (could be R for violence)