Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
Italy/France, 2018. Archimede, Le Pacte, Rai Cinema, Canal+, Cine+, L’Aide aux Cinemas du Monde, Eurimages, Regione Lazio, Film Commission Regione Campania, Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo, Comune di Castel Volturno. Story and screenplay by Ugo Chiti, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso, with collaboration by Marco Perfetti, Damiano D’Innocenzo, Fabio D’Innocenzo, Giulio Troli. Cinematography by Nicolai Brüel. Produced by Paolo Del Brocco, Matteo Garrone, Jean Labadie, Jeremy Thomas. Music by Michele Braga. Production Design by Dimitri Capuani. Costume Design by Massimo Cantini Parrini. Film Editing by Marco Spoletini. Cannes Film Festival 2018. European Film Awards 2018. Toronto International Film Festival 2018.
In a crummy Roman suburb, Marcello runs one of the many rundown businesses in the area, grooming dogs in what looks like a converted slaughterhouse while supplementing his income by dealing cocaine on the side. One of his customers on the latter front is ex-boxer Simone, who between the punches he’s taken to the head and his obsession with snorting drugs is a real danger to the safety of those around him. Marcello tries to keep him sane but constantly gives in to Simone’s unreasonable demands, eventually risking his livelihood by agreeing to take part in a robbery that lands Marcello in prison. When he gets out and comes looking for what his friend owes him, he is rebuffed and mistreated even worse than before, inspiring him to consider revenge on the man he thought was his friend. The conclusion should be a satisfying finish to a story set in a world where aggression rules and reason can’t survive, but the problem is that Simone is designed as such a brainless thug that the idea that anyone would even be stupid enough to try and expect any kind of decent reasoning out of him is not only ridiculous, it’s annoying to sit through. Marcello’s lack of ability to read any room makes him unworthy of our attention and suggests that director Matteo Garrone, still unable to recapture the heat of Gomorrah, is exploiting him as a symbol and not interested in him as a person (think of many of Lars von Trier’s feeble-minded women, that sort of thing). Thematically, the inclusion of his relationship with his four-footed friends is a welcome aspect of the story, but it’s only there superficially and isn’t connected enough to the rest of the plot to offer anything interesting or profound.