Enragés (Rabid Dogs)
This remake of Mario Bava’s 1974 Cani Arrabati, which was for a long time thought a lost film, sticks very close to the plot of the original but adds some stylistic touches – a nebulous setting where French crooks are on the run on Canadian locations, the cast are generally more glamorous-looking, significant flashbacks take place in a surreal scarlet-lit corridor and there’s a detour to the site of a bear festival complete with Wicker Man-style bonfire and bear-skinned revellers (which evokes the British thriller A Lonely Place to Die). It’s stylish and gripping, but perhaps misses the grit and squirminess of the rougher, more grounded (and very Italy-in-1974) original.
It begins with a bank heist, complicated (in an updated touch) by an Occupy-style protest outside and a dropped can of teargas, then has the quartet of robbers face off the cops and snatch hostages – the boss (Pierre Lebeau), most competent of the gang, is wounded and chooses to go down in a hail of bullets so his comrades can get away, but Sabri aka Little Chief (Guillaume Gouix) isn’t as able to control the panicky Manu (Franck Gastambide), who has ineptly killed a hostage, and scarred psycho pretty boy Vincent (Francois Arnaud), who is immediately more interested in fondling the surviving female hostage (Virginie Ledoyen) than anything else. Ditching their car and a stolen van, the thugs invade a car driven by a buttoned-down, desperate guy (Wilson) who has an unconscious four-year-old girl in the back and claims to be driving her to a hospital to get a kidney transplant. With captions announcing the passing of time, this ill-assorted crew attempt to leave the city, with the expected thwarted escapes, cop check-points, friction between the robbers and the ticking clock of the ailing girl.
Writers Yannick Dahan (La Horde), Benjamin Rataud and director Éric Hannezo – the source is credited as a Michael J. Carroll short story from EQMM (‘Man and Boy’), not the script of the earlier film – keep upping the stakes on the Bava version but just tend to blunt the suspense: if a scene in Cani Arrabati involved squirming to get away from an obstacle, there’s gunplay here and incidental characters get shot dead. It piles on the situations – a stroke-ridden old woman recognises the robbers from a TV broadcast and desperately rings the bell for her carer as one of the thugs advances on her, then is left helpless when the carer is caught in the crossfire … a ranting, shotgun-toting garage proprietor also sees that news show and gets gunned down by Sabri. The twist at the end is the same as before – making this one of those remakes that wants to be a substitute for the earlier film rather than a complement to it. Among the 70s holdovers is the fact that the major female characters are useless or comatose, and their horrible treatment by the men in the car is just taken as the way things are.