There's a car double parked on this Montreal street, and the police take an interest, asking the driver to move on, but he tells them he is waiting for his wife, and it won't be long before she returns. Fine, they say, and drive on, unaware that all the time he has been conducting this exchange he has been fingering the machine gun he has on the passenger seat, for he is a getaway driver and there is a major bank robbery going on not so far away. Suddenly a smoke canister tumbles down the steps and goes off, and the criminals burst out into the street, shooting any cops who may get in their way then clambering into the car and the chase is on. They have attracted so much attention that the law are ready for them, and drastic measures will be needed to escape...
Rabid Dogs was also the English language title for the Mario Bava thriller of the nineteen-seventies, one that was barely released at the time and only really had better exposure some years after the director passed away. Presumably this lack of a wide distribution was why a French-Canadian production (as in French and Canadian) arose four decades later, since most viewers would be coming to it fresh, not aware of its twists and turns, particularly the final one of which more of a big deal was made than what Bava did with it. Here that was oddly telegraphed in an early scene that made one character look a bit off, though it could be that you would notice only if you were aware of what they were actually up to.
If the original had a message, it would be to tell us all men were basically awful at heart, taking the misogyny of the Italian cinema scene of the seventies with its violence against women and throwing it back in the audience's faces. Whether it was consciously deploring these entertainments or simply throwing its own hat into the ring to compete with them may have been a moot point, but it was true to say the men did not emerge from the story with much credit, or none whatsoever more often than not, but such a bleak philosophy was not so much present in the remake. It served up the narrative more or less sincerely, playing each development with a straight face and relying on bursts of action to sustain the tension.
To that end it did fairly well, opening out what for Bava was an experiment in how much he could keep scenes confined to the interior of the car, such a cramped location that stuffing these antagonistic characters into it with the heat rising and the tempers fraying that the experience was deliberately uncomfortable, not only for them but for the audience as well. The director here, Éric Hannezo, preferred more variety in his set-ups, so they left the vehicle far more often, and there were more diversions to allow them to do so, which did tend to sacrifice the close, winding up mood, and the heat was less of a factor too. This left a slicker movie, yet not one that was necessarily as sleazily memorable no matter that the criminals remained a nasty bunch prone to violence.
There were a couple of well-known French faces here (as opposed to well-known Canadian faces, this was very French and it was just the location that they took advantage of in a North American style), with Lambert Wilson as the hapless chap trying to get his four-year-old daughter to hospital for a transplant but is waylaid when the criminals carjack him, and Virginie Ledoyen as the hostage they pick up to prevent the cops from shooting them. After losing one of their number, the gang take these three into the countryside, significantly more picturesque than the dusty motorways and country lanes that had been in the original, heading for the border which in true thriller fashion represents the refuge for the bad guys that they may or may not reach, and if they do reach it they will be at some form of disadvantage, we can tell. There was nothing especially wrong about Enragés, it was professionally assembled and arranged, but it lacked the unpleasant rough edges of its source, meaning it was not as memorable, if anything rather disposable. If you wanted a quick thriller fix, you could do worse. Music by Laurent Eyquem.