Remember how, in the 1990s, every aspiring indie director tried to rip off Quentin Tarantino by making a gangster film that mixed graphic violence with quirky dialogue, dark comedy, and obscure pop cultural references? That led to a lot of terrible movies but not a single one (not even Amongst Friends) was as terrible as Mad Dog Time.
That Mad Dog Time was terrible should come as no surprise. Most directorial debuts are. What made Mad Dog Time unique was the sheer amount of talent that was assembled and wasted in the effort to bring this sorry movie to life. As the son of Joey Bishop, director Larry Bishop was Hollywood royalty and was able to convince several ridiculously overqualified actors to play the thinly drawn gangsters and rouges who populated Mad Dog Time. Much like the Rat Pack movies that his father once starred in, Larry Bishop’s debut film was full of familiar faces. Some of them only appeared for a few seconds while others had larger roles but they were all wasted in the end. Hopefully, everyone was served a good lunch in between filming their scenes because it is hard to see what else anyone could have gotten out of appearing in Mad Dog Time.
Mob boss Vic (Richard Dreyfuss) has just been released from a mental hospital. With the help of his main enforcer, Mick (Jeff Goldblum), and a legendary hitman named Nick (Larry Bishop, giving not only the worst performance in the film but also the worst performance of the 1990s), Vic is going to reassert his control over the rackets. Vic also wants to find his former mistress, Grace Everly (Diane Lane) but he doesn’t know that Grace is now with Mick and that Mick is also having an affair with Grace’s sister, Rita (Ellen Barkin).
(Grace and Rita are the Everly Sisters! Ha ha, between that and all the rhyming names, are you laughing yet?)
Ben London (Gabriel Byrne) has taken over Vic’s nightclub and, while singing My Way with Paul Anka, tells Vic that he should take an early retirement because he’s a paranoid schizophrenic. Before he can deal with Ben, Vic has to kill all of his other rivals, all of whom are played by actors like Michael J. Pollard, Billy Idol, Kyle MacLachlan, Gregory Hines, and Burt Reynolds. The bodies start to pile up but Jimmy the Undertaker (Richard Pryor, looking extremely frail in one of his final roles) is always around to make sure that everyone gets a proper burial.
And there are other cameos as well. Joey Bishop is the owner of a mortuary. Henry Silva is wasted as one the few gangsters to stay loyal to Vic. Christopher Jones, who previously co-starred with Larry Bishop and Richard Pryor in Wild In The Streets before dropping out of a society, plays a hitman who pretends to be Nick Falco. Even Rob Reiner shows up a limo driver who talks too much.
Almost every poorly paced scene in Mad Dog Time plays out the same way. Three or more men confront each other in a room. Hard-boiled dialogue is exchanged for an interminable length of time until someone finally gets shot. You would think, at the very least, it would be watchable because of all the different people in the cast but none of the actors really seem to be into it. Richard Dreyfuss and Jeff Goldblum resort to smirking through their scenes while Gabriel Byrne often appears to be drunk. Whenever he’s in a scene, Burt Reynolds seems to be trying to hide his face and it is hard to blame him. There were many terrible movies released in the 90s but none were as bad as Mad Dog Time.