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VIFF 2018: Breaking DOGMAN [Review]

By Marina Antunes [10.01.18]


How much can one man take before he loses his cool? In the case of Matteo Garrone's Dogman that answer is: quite a bit.


Garrone, best known for Gomorrah and Tale of Tales (review), returns to the underbelly of society to a rundown neighbourhood in an unidentified Italian seaside community. It's a place with crumbling buildings and plazas, a place that feels old but alive with a sense of community and one of the best liked members of that community is Marcello, the dog-obsessed owner of the local dog grooming business. He's friendly with the neighbours and other business owners and in his spare time, he and his daughter participate in dog shows and go on diving trips together.


Marcello does have a vice that brings him into contact with some unsavoury characters: cocaine. His affinity for the drug has brought him into the orbit of Simone, a former boxer who also happens to terrorize the entire neighbourhood. It's unclear if Marcello likes everyone so he genuinely feels some friendliness towards Simone or if he puts up with him because he's scared. It may even be a mix of the two but that relationship begins to turn sour when Simone incriminates Marcello in a robbery.


Rather than turn Simone in, Marcello takes the fall and goes to prison for a year, expecting that his friend will be there for him when he gets out but as was painfully clear to everyone else from the beginning, Simone is interested in no one but himself and when Marcello comes around looking for his cut of the heist, things don't go well.



The first half of Dogman is an interesting set-up for the explosive second half but until the heist, the movie is simply a character study of a meek and friendly guy with a couple of shady friends who also really loves dogs. It's that passion for the furry animals that brings many of the memorable moments of the movie's first half; random scenes of Marcello grooming poodles and pit bulls and in one hilarious scene, even reviving a tiny dog.


It's certainly entertaining but the movie comes into itself in the second half when we start to see the shift in Marcello; when the friendly guy is pushed to the edge and finally breaks. The movie relies heavily on the performance from Marcello Fonte as Marcello and the actor fully delivers equally well in both halves of the film, selling the progression of the character's mental break with brilliant subtlety.


Dogman is infused with a great deal of charm which lifts the mood slightly but this is most definitely the story of a man who is pushed too far and the flashes of violence that are peppered throughout are sometimes difficult to watch. Thankfully, Garrone spares the animals.


Dogman is currently playing the festival circuit including two more screenings at VIFF.



Recommended Release: Gomorrah



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