Bullies need enablers and Dogman is all about one such relationship. At the center is Marcello (Marcello Fonte), a diminutive and timid dog groomer, who lives for his time with his daughter Sofia and never met a dog he didn’t love. But he also sells cocaine on the side to make ends meet, especially to pay for his scuba trips with Sofia. One of his buyers is the hulking brute Simone (Edoardo Pesce) who Marcello looks at like one of his dogs that could be tamed, if only. Simone only sees the relationship as what he can get from Marcello and pushes it to the breaking point. It’s a dark and dreary character study with flashes of comedy that you know won’t end well.

The setting for this tale is a depressed and decaying beach town somewhere in Italy. It’s a tight-knit community where Simone is seen by most everyone as a problem to be solved. There is even talk of finding a way to erase him permanently. But Marcello never met a rabid dog he didn’t like and Simone plays on his goodness, eventually making him take the fall for a crime he didn’t commit. And though Marcello goes along expecting Simone to make up for it later, when he finally sees Simone for who he is, he does what you have to do to a rabid dog.

Both of the leads are mesmerizing in this small film by assured director Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah). Marcello Fonte Marcello’s sweet face is just so full of optimism you want things to go well for him, but Edoardo Pesce’s Simone is such a horrifying raging coke-head that he can’t seem to get away from that it’s scary to see Marcello transform into the avenging little man he becomes at the end of the film. Dogman is basically great performances in a very gritty story. If you love dogs and brutality, this is the film for you.

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