Matteo Garrone returns to the milieu of Gomorrah with the tense, brutal and tragic crime film Dogman

Film Review by Joseph Walsh | 22 May 2018
Film title: Dogman
Director: Matteo Garrone
Starring: Adamo Dionisi, Francesco Acquaroli, Edoardo Pesce

Based on the true story of a coke-addled dog groomer who killed a man outside Rome in the mid-80s, Matteo Garrone’s tense urban-western Dogman is a great addition to the Italian director’s oeuvre and sees him return to the criminal surroundings of his international breakthrough, Gomorrah.

Taking place on the outskirts of a dilapidated seaside town somewhere near Naples, the story follows the pitiful life of Marcello (Marcello Fonty). At the beginning of the film, we watch as he attempts to bathe a ferocious pitbull. Despite snarling and barking, he seems to want to befriend the animal – it’s a dynamic that becomes very familiar throughout the film. Marcello is something of a kicked-puppy, desperate to be loved by one and all, doing what it takes to make his daughter happy, spending his evening playing five-a-side football with his friends.

Unfortunately, Marcello is unable to refuse anyone anything, including hulking brute Simone (Edoardo Pesce), who bullies the mild-mannered Marcello into giving him coke for free or strong-arms him into being his getaway driver. Seeing the pair stand together is almost comical, with the slight Marcello cravenly following this colossal thug. As with Garrone’s previous films, the comic and tragic are always sitting side by side, and he’s not afraid of using moments of explosive violence.

Meanwhile, Pecsce and Fonty – both professional actors – blend seamlessly into the spartan landscape, where the world of petty criminality is shown with a convincing degree of realism, where hierarchies are everything, and where there are clear lines between alpha and beta males that should never be crossed.

The plotting is tense, with an atmosphere that shift gracefully from realism into a surreal, metaphysical world by the conclusion of the movie. Garrone labours the allegorical nature of the film, stressing you can never entirely escape the devil – especially in a world of toxic masculinity. It's a style that perhaps lacks in refinement for some tastes, at points verging on the heavy-handed, but Garrone has never been interested in subtlety; you just have to look at Tale of Tales or Reality to see that. For fans of his work, it is precisely this clear sense of direction that makes him such an exciting filmmaker.

We watch as Marcello collapses under the weight of his surroundings, shifting from a hapless and kind man into a vengeful, bitter low-life. Tense, tragic and at times brutal, Dogman is undoubtedly Garrone on top form.

Dogman had its world premiere at The 2018 Cannes Film Festival – for more Cannes coverage, click here

Follow Joseph Walsh on Twitter at @JosephDAWalsh

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