Critics’ grades are running all up and down the scale for Dogman, Italian director Matteo Garrone’s fourth film in competition at Cannes after Gomorrah (2008), Reality (2012), and Tale of Tales (2015). That said, all hearts and minds are won over by Marcello Fonte’s performance as the titular dog groomer with a teensy cocaine-dealing business on the side. IndieWire’s David Ehrlich suggests that his “sunken features and hapless attitude suggest a cross-breeding between Peter Lorre and Buster Keaton.”
Marcello’s nemesis is a former boxer (Edoardo Pesce) who bullies his way around a small coastal town somewhere in southern Italy. We’re not sure where exactly, and for Giovanni Marchini Camia at the Film Stage, that’s symptomatic of the void at the center of Dogman. “By depriving their David and Goliath story of geographical and chronological specificity—both setting and time period are kept purposely vague—Garrone and his co-writers, Ugo Chiti and Massimo Gaudisio, have also stripped the film of any genuine social relevance. The result is a philosophically bankrupt, if effectively constructed, spectacle of violence.”
Among the film’s champions is Peter Bradshaw, who gives Dogman the Guardian’s highest rating. “Garrone has such brio in the way he shows us Marcello’s happy little life . . . and then shows us his descent into bitterness and vengefulness.” This is a “movie with incomparable bite and strength.”
And then there are the critics who split the difference, such as Adam Woodward at Little White Lies. “Dogman is being pitched as an ‘urban western,’ and Nicolai Brüel’s dirt-smudged cinematography certainly adds a layer of grime and gloom to proceedings. Yet while the film is compelling enough as an unsentimental portrait of social decay in southern Italy, it lacks the muscularity and visceral jolt of Garrone’s earlier work.”
More from Robbie Collin (Telegraph, 4/5), Martyn Conterio (CineVue, 3/5), Ben Croll (TheWrap), Camillo De Marco (Cineuropa), A. A. Dowd (A.V. Club, B-), Lawrence Garcia (Notebook), Owen Gleiberman (Variety), Manuela Lazic (Vague Visages), Lee Marshall (Screen), Jordan Ruimy (Playlist, B+), Barbara Scharres (RogerEbert.com), and Deborah Young (Hollywood Reporter).