Movie Review CIFF43: Dogman

By Alec Gehrlein ’19

I think my sense of humor is getting progressively darker as I watch more and more movies like this. Five, six years ago, I don’t know how I would have reacted to Dogman; as of right now, I love it. Matteo Garrone is back in the crime genre, ten years after his masterpiece Gomorrah. In that span of time, his films became darker, stranger and — most importantly — funnier. Garrone has brought all these sensibilities back to the genre he seems to be most comfortable with, and has produced a comedy so dark it might even keep you from laughing.

Not that it’s all blood and torture; Dogman is a seriously good movie. The film follows Marcello (Marcello Fonte), a dog groomer who deals cocaine on the side. He’s got a daughter to support, family trips to fund and a struggling business to keep afloat. All would be swell if it weren’t for Simone (Edoardo Pesce), a bullish thug whose sheer size dwarfs Marcello into submission. Simone is a coke-head who’s short on cash; Marcello is a coke-dealer who’s easily pushed around. Things inevitably erupt.

Some will probably predict where the movie goes, but the plot points don’t matter so much as how we see our characters getting there. Marcello becomes an animalistic mess by the end, and the path he takes might suffer from formula, but is totally entertaining.

Garrone’s direction is much the same as his previous films stylistically; he just makes better choices of what to show and not to show. A drifting, documentary style camera makes the violence feel realer, and the darker color palette makes it feel dirtier. Garrone places us in a seedy underworld that manages to feel totally believable despite its absurdities. It all culminates with a brilliant two-minute shot to highlight the main character’s emotional state, and is a shot I won’t forget.

These actors have clearly worked canine behavior into their performances. Simone is a pitbull: gruff, rough and jacked. He could easily pounce and leave you scarred. Marcello is a chihuahua, or even a poodle: skinny, scared, loyal to its master. He makes it a goal to become the alpha dog, which means leaving his humanity at the door and his morals with it.