Mad Dog Time
August 6, 2003
Starring: Ellen Barkin, Gabriel Byrne, Richard Dreyfuss, Jeff Goldblum, Diane Lane, Burt Reynolds, Larry Bishop, Joey Bishop, Kyle MacLachlan, Angie Everhart, Henry Silva, Michael J. Pollard, Gregory Hines, Billy Idol, Billy Drago, ,
Mad Dog Time (1996) exists in a world where Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack never went out of fashion. It’s a parallel universe stuck in the 1940s and populated by gangsters and femme fatales. To say that this film works on its own kooky internal logic is an understatement.
Mickey (Goldblum) is a hot shot gangster who has it all. He’s on the top of his game and he’s a got a beautiful girlfriend (Barkin). His reign is threatened when local crime boss Vic (Dreyfuss) is released from a mental hospital. Mickey gets caught up in a gangland power struggle between Vic, his right-hand man, Ben (Byrne), and several other ambitious gangsters (MacLachlan and Reynolds). In no time flat, the film turns into a bullet festival as gangsters start dropping like flies.
This is one of those films that makes you wonder, what were these people thinking? Gabriel Byrne is obviously parodying his performance in Miller’s Crossing (1990) with a mannered, hammy turn that goes way over-the-top into surreal self-indulgence. His Irish gangster is drunk most of the time (gee, not perpetuating a stereotype there?) and Byrne slurs his way through an embarrassingly awful acting job that culminates in a horrible rendition of “My Way” with Paul Anka. In contrast, Jeff Goldblum is suave, confident and uncharacteristically devoid of his usual acting tics-it’s like he and Byrne switched bodies.
Ellen Barkin looks stunningly beautiful, evoking glamourous actress Veronica Lake, but does little else than look great. Diane Lane doesn’t even show up until the last twenty minutes and is also wasted in this film.
Mad Dog Time was written and directed by Larry Bishop (son of Rat Packer, Joey Bishop) who’s had a pretty unremarkable acting career (appearing in such gems as The Big Fix and Valerie Bertinelli’s magnum opus, C.H.O.M.P.S.). His screenplay makes no sense. Characters walk on and are killed for no discernable rhyme or reason (i.e. Billy Idol’s cameo). Kyle MacLachlan’s character has an office-ornate desk and chairs on Persian rugs-in the middle of a hangar. The film is simply weird for weird’s sake. It could have used a few more rewrites or some serious script doctoring. Mad Dog Time was his first and, not surprisingly, last directorial effort to date.
A theatrical trailer and that’s it. To add insult to injury, the film is presented in full screen format.
Self-indulgent mess is probably the best way to describe Mad Dog Time. It tries too hard to be quirky and off-beat. This film was crucified by critics when it was released and with good reason. In theory, this was probably a good idea: a homage to the Rat Pack era (complete with a soundtrack by the likes of Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr.), but in practice it just doesn’t work.