"Dogman" is following a, ehem, dogman. Marcello groom dogs for a living and he loves them. He has a child he see once in a while, and he is liked by everyone. His greatest friend is not the best of guys, though. He is a coke head and backstabs everyone and mashes down everything and everyone that he doesn't like. Marcello helps him out. He can drive him from or back from hits or spend a coked up evening or two with him. Otherwise he is a great guy. In fact, he is so great that he does not snitch on his friend, even when it brings him a whole lot of trouble.
The film is lovely shot, in quite bleak surroundings. Marcello Fonte as Marcello is doing an spectacular job - it won him an Cannes statue - and you kind of love the man he acts, even if he make dumb desicions and is a bit to kind for his own best.
A very good crime drama - a blend that rearly misses my tastes, but this was better than most for me. It turns from gentle to raw several times, and it gets you every time.
7.5 out of 10 dog cages.
Loosely based on a real-life incident, Dogman is an intimate character drama telling the story of an inherently good man who pays the price for attempting to foster a friendship with an irredeemable and sociopathic brute. Directed and co-written by Matteo Garrone, the film operates on the level of both social realism and as a kind of modern-day Aesop's fable. Postulating the somewhat nihilistic view that, when pushed to extremes and backed into a corner, man is no different than a dog, the film returns Garrone to the mob-infused milieu of his breakout, Gomorra (2008). However, the two are markedly different films - whereas Gomorra weaved five separate stories into a complex narrative tapestry, Dogman focuses tightly on one core story; whereas Gomorra told the story of a powerful organised criminal enterprise, Dogman tells the story of a localised and utterly ridiculous criminal mentality; whereas Gomorra depicted mob figures both powerful and insignificant, Dogman depicts people not even on the lowest rungs of the ladder. However, both films emphasise the importance of omerta, and both explore some of the less glamourous aspects of gangsterism - the casual brutality, the illogical sycophancy, the centrality of pusillanimity, the power of addiction, the nature of poverty, the abdication of immediate self-interest in deference to potential long-term accruement.
Diminutive and inoffensive, Marcello (Marcello Fonte), owns a small dog-grooming business in a run-down Neapolitan sea-side suburb. Separated from his wife, Marcello is devoted to his daughter, Alida (Alida Baldari Calabria). However, to pay for the expensive holidays on which he takes Alida, he sells cocaine on the side, his best customer for which is the hulking Simoncino (Edoardo Pesce). An unpredictable and volatile ex-boxer who everyone in town fears, although Simoncino treats Marcello with utter contempt, Marcello wants to foster a real friendship. However, when Simoncino decides to rob the gold-for-cash store next door to Marcello's business by busting a hole through Marcello's wall, Marcello is immediately uncomfortable. Failing to talk Simoncino out of the robbery, Marcello eventually decides he's had enough of being pushed around.
Co-written by Garrone and his regular collaborators, Ugo Chiti and Massimo Gaudioso, Dogman is based on the case of Pietro De Negri, aka "Er Canaro" (the dog keeper). A dog-groomer who dealt cocaine on the side, in 1988 Negri tortured to death former boxer and cocaine addict Giancarlo Ricci, who had bullied him for years.
The film goes out of its way to ensure that the audience feels sympathy for Marcello, if not necessarily empathy, depicting him as a fundamentally decent person, coke dealing aside. Yes, he's weak-willed and a terrible judge of character, but he dearly loves his daughter, who he treats like a queen, he is respectful and accommodating to his friends, and he seems to genuinely believe he can save Simoncino from himself. His hamartia is that he believes he can apply logic to his friendship with Simoncino - if he gives Simoncino what he wants, then Simoncino will come to respect him. Highly skilled at placating the snarling dogs who don't want him anywhere near them, Marcello wrongly believes he can do the same with Simoncino.
Especially worthy of praise is the film's almost post-apocalyptic location, which is practically another character entirely - the beach is ugly and overgrown; the buildings are unoccupied, paint peeling off the walls, some of them literally only shells; the shopfronts are rusty. This ties into the film's allegorical concerns, as the desolate nature of the locale mirrors the barren souls of the men who live here.
Fitting very much into Garrone's oeuvre, Dogman wants to convey universal truths by focusing on the micro rather than the macro. Of course, for an allegory to work, it must first and foremost function as a stand-alone story, and the argument could be made that this is where Dogman falls down. The storyline is very slight, with Garrone more interested in philosophising than he is in story-telling.
Another issue is related to the metaphor of the dogs. Whilst "Dogman" is the name of Marcello's business, it also describes both protagonist and antagonist - Simoncino is the vicious beast who Marcello must try to calm, whilst Marcello is the unfailingly loyal lapdog who always returns to his abusive master. However, do the caged dogs represent how Marcello is entrapped by Simoncino's violence, or are the shots of Marcello pampering them a metaphor for his servility to an indifferent master?
However, aside from this slight impreciseness, Dogman is a fine film. Humble in its aspirations, and small by design, some viewers will find it too uneventful, whilst others will find the ending too abrupt. All things considered, though, it's a strong piece of cinema.
For me this movie contains too much violence that is unnecessary to tell the story. Also, I think that the "revenge" is somewhat too "simple" (mainly bloody).
I was asking myself what Marcello could have done to escape this desparate violence...
Con una fotografia meravigliosa e con un carattere centrale che pi˙ "caratteristico" non potrebbe essere, questo film ispirato alla vicenda del canaro della magliana, si trasforma in una triste fiaba sulla perdita (tardiva magari) dell'innocenza, dove l'unica empatia che si puˇ provare, Ŕ quella per il mondo animale.