Dogman (2018)

Dogman first published by RealCrime Magazine

Dogman‘s title sounds like some superhero’s moniker, yet is in fact the name of a store offering dog-grooming and kennel services run by a smiling, diminutive owner based on a real person who operated out of Rome’s dilapidated Magliana neighbourhood, by the Tiber (although the film was in fact shot at an abandoned touristic resort near Naples).

Marcello (Marcello Fonte) loves dogs almost as much as he loves his estranged young daughter Alida (Alida Bladari Calabria), and is expert at taming even the most aggressive hounds – but when his hulking old friend Simoncino (Edoardo Pesce) returns from prison, Marcello is badgered and bullied into helping this coked-up ‘mad dog’ commit crimes, and then taking the rap for them. Marcello loses everything to Simoncino, and decides, when he returns from his own stint in prison, that he must approach this selfish, appetitive beast – a scourge on the community – as he would one of his recalcitrant pooches. 

Accordingly, Dogman really is, in the end, a strange sort of superhero movie, pitting the meekest of men against a monster, and falling somewhere between the social realism of its setting and the more mythic qualities of Marcello’s confrontation with Simoncino. Yet any victory here is empty, as Marcello finds himself utterly isolated and ostracised in a community that is already itself marginalised, and director Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah, 2008; Reality, 2012; Tale of Tales, 2015) reveals the limited room for power play amongst those living – in various kinds of cages – on the outer edge of Italian society. 

© Anton Bitel