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By Filipe Freitas | April 10, 2019

Matteo Garrone is a compelling Italian director who always brings an authentic ‘mafiosi’ flavor to his thoughtful films, exception made to Tale Of Tales, an incursion into fantasy/adventure, which deviates from his habitually native topics. His bleak, lowlife crime drama Dogman is an excellent addition to a worthy filmography that also includes Gomorrah and Reality.

Co-written by Garrone and his frequent collaborators Ugo Chiti and Massimo Gaudioso, the story has Marcello (Marcello Fonte) at its center, a gentle and patient dog groomer whom everyone in the neighborhood is fond of. However, by looking at his smiling face and maladroit expression, you wouldn’t say he hides a dark secret. Marcello sells cocaine on the side to support his beloved daughter Alida (Alida Baldari Calabria).

“…take responsibility for the infraction or denounce [a friend] to the police…”

Despite the worries of his closest friends – bar owner Francesco (Francesco Acquaroli) and gold jewelry proprietor Franco (Adamo Dionisi) – regarding Simone (Edoardo Pesce), an unruly, violent, addictive former boxer who terrorizes the neighborhood, he still wants to be his friend. Even when forced to join the thug in robberies without being paid. This sort of fascination for an ungrateful criminal who continually takes advantage of his fragile posture and good nature is the film’s most challenging part to cope with.

When Simone engenders a plan to rob Francesco’s gold from the inside of Dogman, Marcello’s store, the things change radically. The robbery is sloppily executed, and Marcello is placed in a very delicate position: he must either take responsibility for the infraction or denounce Simone to the police. The option of spending one year in prison for his ‘friend’ wasn’t surprising at all. Yet, it will make him tougher and resolute in his future decisions, which include demanding the respect of the beast he covered up.

“…a tale of solitude, equally tragic and funny, heavy and whimsical.”

Fonte gives a blistering central performance and is deservedly rewarded in Cannes, winning in the Best Actor category. Beautifully shot, this character study fascinates in an almost perverse way, building up adequate levels of tension throughout and bursting with disturbing scenes of violence. It is also a tale of solitude, equally tragic and funny, heavy and whimsical.

While the Italian cinema gives signs to come back to life, Dogman is a great choice if you’re sick of showy crime trifles that arrive from Hollywood on a regular basis.

Dogman (2018) Directed by Matteo Garrone. Written by Matteo Garrone, Ugo Chiti, Massimo Gaudioso. Starring Marcello Fonte, Edoardo Pesce, Francesco Acquaroli, Adamo Dionisi, Alida Baldari Calabria, Nunzia Schiano.

9 out of 10 stars

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