Current Issue #480

Film Review: Dogman

Film Review: Dogman

Matteo Garrone’s latest drama features a terrific performance by Marcello Fonte and lots of scarily skewed sympathies.

Garrone (who directed, co-wrote, co-produced and served as a camera operator) returns to the grim, violent mood of his Gomorrah here, although the perspective is more intimate and personal than that film, and we’re left much less sure about where our loyalties should lie.

In a rundown Roman coastal town we meet Marcello (Fonte), who runs ‘Dogman’ and minds, washes and grooms a small menagerie of lovely canines. He’s well-respected in the community and willing to do anything for his young daughter, Alida (Alida Baldari Calabria), but their trips together are expensive and so he sells a little cocaine on the side. And immediately we don’t know what to think, because he’s a nice guy and treats the mutts in his care with much gentleness (he continually calls them “amore”) – but he is still a criminal, however small-time.

The locals live in fear of the unpredictable, drug-addled Simone (Edoardo Pesce), a former boxer who says he’s Marcello’s friend and treats him with a kind of thumping chumminess, and he starts roping Marcello in for a series of criminal jobs that get more and more dangerous. And, again, we’re torn because we don’t want to see Marcello get hurt, and yet we also know that part of Simone’s destructive behaviour is due to the drugs he buys (sort of) from Marcello.

The plot takes a turn and Marcello falls, and he then returns with less of a fixed grin on his face and looking for revenge. You’ll be surprised how much you want to see Simone go down. Hard.

With its depressing locations, dead-end characters and uncomfortably blurry morals, this is all about the ruin of a good man – or, at least, a basically good man, at heart – and built upon Fonte’s finely underplayed performance. Yes, Marcello is essentially a pushover, but be warned: this one’s title doesn’t just refer to his business’ name.

Dogman (MA) is in cinemas from August 29

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