Dogman review: Thrilling Cannes upon its world premiere debut with a best actor award for lead Marcello Fonte, is this Italy-set crime drama with comedic beats from Gomorrah filmmaker Matteo Garrone. The plaudits are deserved in this wonderfully constructed and brilliantly staged feature, actually based on a true story from the 1980s.

Dogman review
BFI London Film Festival

Marcello is a small-business owner in a shoddy part of town where buildings are run down and people are seemingly scrapping around to make an honest buck. We open to see him scrubbing down a rather vicious-looking and acting canine in his shop. The dog is growling and worryingly fierce as Marcello goes about his business, but seems unperturbed about the dangerous nature of his task, the skilled ‘Dogman’ calming the animal down for a post-bath blow dry. Marcello’s business is moderately successful, but in order to fulfill his promises to take his young daughter Sofia on expensive scuba-diving holidays, he has a slightly different side-business – supplying drugs to his neighbours, and in particular to big, burly local thug Simone (a brilliant Edoardo Pesce).

Marcello’s dodgy dealings with Simone, which also include getaway driving on domestic robberies, ultimately lead him down a path which see him constantly having his sweet nature abused by the small-time goon. Those he’s constantly abused, and ultimately expected to take a fall for another robbery, Marcello still comes back for more, hoping to become Simone’s friend – the young dog groomer ever the loyal pup to the bullish larger animal.

Dogman review
Dogman review

There’s tons going on throughout Garrone’s impressive film, and at various points reminded me of the brilliant work Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu did on his 2000 feature, Amores Perros – for obvious reasons – the film still a favourite. This story is a little less epic in scale, but there are many layers to the narrative to draw the viewer in and keep them engrossed until the very end. It is funny, and extremely violent in places, and exceedingly raw in its staging and delivery – all to its advantage.

The stand outs are the two actors centre-stage. Fonte and Pesce excel as the polarising duo and are both a joy to watch throughout. Garrone is clearly at home in the genre after a slight departure with his last couple of efforts, Reality and Tale Of Tales, both of which also made their debut at the Cannes Film Festival. Both weren’t as impactful as this, however. Dogman is a saccharine, though sometimes savage story with a massively unpredictable nature that truly shows a film-maker more than returning to top form. Highly recommended.

Dogman review by Paul Heath, October 2018.

Dogman was reviewed at the 2018 BFI London Film Festival and will be released in UK cinemas on 19th October 2018.