Based on Mario Bava’s original 1974 classic and following a poorly planned bank heist, three French criminals go on the run, taking a young woman, a father and his sick child hostage. Now a deadly road trip, the race is on to reach the border and escape with the money.

Legendary director Bava saw his project collapse when his key investor and producer died. The film was never completed in his vision. Following Bava’s death, his son Lamberto, successfully had the film removed from the shelves in 1996 and re-distributed it with new footage. Rabid Dogs received critical acclaim as a minimalist noir masterpiece, favoured for it’s cinematography and inspired narrative. Now, in 2015, producer turned first-time director Éric Hannezo, presents Enragés (Rabid Dogs), a French speaking, crime thriller based on Bava’s original template and a salute to the cult director with a twist of it’s own.

Within minutes, it is clear that Rabid Dogs is a stylish edition to this year’s FrightFest. Channeling the stylistic verve of Drive (2011) and film noir, the plot follows three ex-cons who take down a bank before fleeing town with two hostages in tow – an attractive young newly-wed (Virginie Ledoyen) and a single dad (Lambert Wilson) whose car is hijacked on the way to the hospital with his daughter in the back seat, needing urgent medical care. Told she is needing a transplant, he explains she has around five hours.

A well-designed opening is intense enough to keep one interested consistently throughout, using a clock between scenes as a constant reminder that both the trio and the child are running out of time. The film owes the majority of it’s success to it’s mise-en-scene and excellent cinematography as it includes production design by Jean-Andre Carriere (known for Brick Mansions). Playing out underneath the techno-inspired scores of Giallo (Bava and Dario Argento classics), the pace of the film ticks along – capturing multiple shootouts, car crashes and self-serious dialogues in polished widescreen compositions. Shot in Canada (not France), and using red as a predominant colour throughout also, Hannezo wanted to create picturesque scenes and artistic, beautifully constructed shots which engage spectators. And he succeeds.

The gangsters themselves are not well organised. Their bickering and lack of trust for one another results in a messy job and exposes them as weak to their hostages who consequently make several attempts to trick them in order to escape. Sabri (Guillaume Gouix) is the leader of the pack and unable to control his temper. His henchman are Vincent (François Arnaud), a psychopath who sexually harasses the female hostage, and Manu (Franck Gastambide), a father-turned-petty thief whose gotten in way over his head. Though the characters themselves are fairly generic, their own side stories add just enough character depth whilst not overcompensating or distracting from the main narrative. As the trio enter in to the countryside and out of the city, this is when the pace begins to slow down though at no point does it hit the breaks.

The film focuses less on the characters of the hostages. The performances, whilst they are not particularly memorable, are certainly acceptable. Ledoyen is introduced in front of a mirror, trying on Victoria’s Secret getup and unfortunately for her, spends the rest of the film getting sexually harassed in the backseat of the getaway car by Vincent. Wilson is given a bit more legroom though the majority of his dialogue is asking them to spare his daughter’s life.

Unlike the original, this film is made for the masses. Though it is heavily based on Bava’s original, it has heavy influences of Hollywood conventional action films. Though certainly not without blood, gun wounds and violence, it is relatively tame for a FrightFest entry. It can also be said that though just as socially and politically relevant as Bava’s social commentary, Hannezo’s lacks in social context almost entirely, only brushing slightly on lack of employment being a possible cause for the heist. At no point, though, does it feel like as audiences we are cheated out of thrill with such a fast-paced story and surprise twist ending. Rabid Dogs is ultimately stylish, beautifully constructed and with an extremely satisfying conclusion and gets a Sophie star rating of 3.5 stars.

Frightfest London review: Rabid Dogs
3.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

About The Author

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Sophie is a film blogger from South London with a degree in Film Theory and Major Production. Sophie currently works in digital marketing but in her spare time you'll find her writing reviews or at the cinema. Sophie loves all things Star Wars and Hollywood but having specialized in the Horror genre, monsters are her first love. She'll watch absolutely anything given the chance - you can find her also on her blog, Twitter: