Jong-su bumps into a girl who used to live in the same neighborhood as him, who asks him to look after her cat while on a trip to Africa. When back, she introduces Ben, a mysterious guy she met there, who confesses his secret hobby.
Laura, a Spanish woman living in Buenos Aires, returns to her hometown outside Madrid with her two children to attend her sister's wedding. However, the trip is upset by unexpected events that bring secrets into the open.
Marcello, a small and gentle dog groomer, finds himself involved in a dangerous relationship of subjugation with Simone, a former violent boxer who terrorizes the entire neighborhood. In an effort to reaffirm his dignity, Marcello will submit to an unexpected act of vengeance.
Unlikable Characters and Bone-Headed Decisions Sink This Promising Italian Drama
Matteo Garrone's DOGMAN starts off fairly strongly, but it unfortunately runs out of steam before the third act even begins... and then the third act has the gall to conclude with an unsatisfying final shot. I struggle to connect with films that focus on morally reprehensible characters, no matter how well-crafted the films themselves might be (ex. RAGING BULL, GOODFELLAS), and DOGMAN fits right in that category. The film focuses on Marcello, a timid dog groomer regularly accosted by towering neighborhood bully Simone, who starts off as an interesting character thanks to Marcello Fonte's great performance, but by the end of the film I was disillusioned by the character's frustratingly idiotic decisions, as well as Garrone's attempts to make the audience sympathize with a character who wasn't worthy of sympathy. There's a very tricky tightrope that a director and performer must navigate when attempting to create a morally reprehensible character that an audience can still sympathize with. Garrone and Fonte fall off that tightrope about halfway through the film. Just because Marcello cares for his daughter and works as a dog groomer (the dogs are easily the best part of this film) doesn't make him any less of a detestable character, as exemplified by a resoundingly foolish decision he makes at the end of the second act that made my eyes roll so hard I saw the inside of my skull.
I know I've mainly expressed my dislike for DOGMAN so far, but the performances (especially from Fonte and Edoardo Pesce) are great, Nicolai Brüel's cinematography is a delight (I particularly enjoyed how much the takes here were longer than usual), and there's a satisfying streak of dark humor running through it all. That being said, there's just too many bone-headed decisions made throughout the course of the film for me to recommend it.
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