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TIFF 2018 Review: Dogman

Macho & mediocre

Based on real-life murderer Pietro De Negri, Matteo Garrone’s new film follows Marcello (Marcello Fonte), a dog groomer, devoted dad, and petty criminal. A knot of contradictory types, Marcello is ultimately a meek man with a good heart who seems to perpetually make mistakes. In hopes of achieving a modicum of wealth and respect, Marcello depends on local bully Simone (Edoardo Baladri Calabria), a brute who will never return the favours he receives. We know, painfully, that anything from going to prison for Simone, to “advancing” him cocaine, will result in nothing beneficial. Dogman is, in this way, incredibly similar to Back to the Future, if that film was relegated to nerdy George McFly being bullied by the oafish Biff. That film knew it needed a Marty McFly, something else to generate interest, diversity of tone and plot. We don’t get that with Dogman.

Garrone’s film is a one-note loop of a persistently passive man. Marcello does, eventually, snap, taking his revenge with a delusional stupor, grotesque in the extremes of his actions, and a stark change tonally from his previously mild-mannered hopes of glory. But by the end of the film, it’s too little too late. With distance, it’s easier to appreciate the film: its quick escalation of Marcello’s character adds retrospective depth to what was before a simple figure, allowing us to consider moments which lead up to his shocking unravelling. But as it plays out, the film is too repetitive, too shallow to enjoy the viewing experience.

Chelsea Phillips-Carr

Chelsea Phillips-Carr is a freelance writer from Toronto. She has an MA in cinema studies.