By Valerie Milano
Dogman, an Italian tale of revenge, is another intensely brutal piece of cinema by director Matteo Garrone - who won the grand jury prize in Cannes in 2012 with his Neapolitan comedy
Dogman is inspired by the real-life case of Er Canaro (The Dog Keeper) - a pet groomer and drug addict who, in 1988 - murdered one of his criminal acquaintances in his Rome salon. This is a tale of life among the criminals.
Set in the oppressive seaside village on the outskirts of a large city, Garrone drops you into the bleak and twisted world of Marcello (Marcello Fonte,) a complaisant dog groomer who commits petty crimes for Simone (Edoardo Pesce,) an unrelenting beast who violently terrorizes the neighborhood that is set outside the town. Marcello is a meek, tail-between-his-legs character who sells coke on the side so he can take his young daughter (Alida Baldari Calabria) on trips when she visits. The well-cast dogs serve as audience pointers throughout the story, where all the male characters are strong yet the women serve as nothing more than predictable props.
The tensions are taut through the film as the business owners surrounding the Dogman shop talk about having Simone eliminated after tiring of living under his destructive actions. Simone is the animal... or is he?
Simone forces Marcello to give him the keys to his shop so that he can return and break into the business next door - promising to make them both rich. The next day, the police take Marcello in and ask him to sign a paper giving him leniency if he confesses that Simone did the crime. Marcello decides to take the year in jail instead.
As Marcello comes home the tides have changed. The local business owners will no longer have anything to do with him and Simone refuses to give him what he was promised for the burglary. Then begins the grotesque domino effect of what can occur when the bullied becomes the bully.
Marcello Fonte won Best Actor at Cannes and has been compared to a cross between Peter Lorre and Buster Keaton. He's a uniquely familiar character and a fine actor. The film is not for the queasy - a dog is pulled out of a freezer - yet humor surprisingly pops out amid the violent moments in this viscerally oblique world painted by Nicolaj Bruel's cinematography and Capuani's sets.
Unfortunately, the film was snubbed for Oscar foreign film consideration by the Academy.
Dogman opens in theaters April 12. View the trailer for