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DOGMAN gets 5.5/10 More bark than bite


Directed by Matteo Garrone

Starring Marcello Fonte, Edoardo Pesce

5.5/10

This messy morality tale (that’s spottier than a Dalmatian) is an initially intriguing, yet ultimately dreary portrayal of a man’s descent into crime and vengeance. The dogman himself is Marcello (Marcello Fonte), who seems like a nice enough bloke, working as the local dog-washer in an impoverished Italian coastal town. But Marcello’s other life involves cocaine and crime, a lifestyle he seems to have been bullied into by the overpowering and mountainously bodied Simoncino (Edoardo Pesce).

The good and evil they portray ain’t coloured outside the lines: Marcello is a puppy-dog eyed do-gooder who’s just caught up in the wrong crowd, while Simoncino is a pure thug with no redeeming qualities (aside from knowing where the good strip clubs are). Marcello’s situation, that he seems partly responsible for, due to his gullibility and susceptibility, just gets more and more pear-shaped without much chance of resolving cleanly, but Dogman’s portrayal of this gradual downfall is dour to be subject to. Marcello’s woes soon turn into a comedy of errors, but without the comedy.

It’s an unfortunate effort from director Matteo Garrone, whose last film Tale of Tales was conversely sparking with life, humour, and playfulness. Dogman contains an amiable characterisation of a man whose morality is corrupted from outside forces, though the man we see on the screen hardly leaves much of an impression. Things would improve if the screenplay were beefed-up to strengthen not only him, but his relationship with his daughter and his bully-friend. Though Dogman is so skeletal, these characters feel like overly self-conscious symbols, rather than more importantly feeling like organic people.

There are shining moments here and there, like a one-shot wonder of Marcello taking care of a dog after he helps Simoncino with a house break-in. And this descent that Marcello is compelled to be lead down breaks out some inner emotions and reactions from him that show just how corruptible a man like him can’t help but be. It’s an interesting dichotomy on screen, that isn’t entirely clear-cut, but with a more compelling lead character, and certainly a more complex villain, Dogman would have a lot more to say about good and evil – and it may be more entertaining while saying it.

DAVID MORGAN-BROWN

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