Check your wallet cinema goers, because this week sees two intriguing crime thrillers go head to head to steal your hard-earned dollars: Mel Gibson’s Dragged Across Concrete and Dogman.
Italian writer/director Matteo Garrone’s gripping Dogman and show- stopping array of dogs won canine prize, the Palm Dog, at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.
It also took home best actor for the magnificent Italian star Marcello Fonte.
He plays a naively sweet dog groomer who pampers pooches in a rundown seaside town.
The doting divorcee dad loves the mutts almost as much as his young daughter (Alida Baldari Calabria).
Treating her to scuba-diving sessions with his meagre earnings, he has a side hustle as a small-time coke dealer.
When old mate Simone (Edoardo Pesce) – a violently unpredictable brute bristling in an Uncle Sam jacket – shows up, his constant demands for blow spiral into press-ganging Marcello into robbing mansions.
Pretty soon the locals are plotting ways to get shot of Simone, quite literally, dragging an infuriatingly compliant Marcello down with him.
Garrone’s an intriguing director who delivered a gritty Godfather-like gangster saga in Gomorrah, based on the best-selling novel by Roberto Saviano.
He also crafted darkly erotic fable Tale of Tales, a Brothers Grimm-style fantasy adapted from the 17th-century poems of Giambattista Basile.
Dogman splices those DNA strands. It’s a familiar pressure-cooker story of a good guy getting pushed up against the wall until he can’t take any more.
It also has a storybook surreality, thanks to the crumbling setting and Fonte’s magical performance. Marcello’s like the kid with a catapult (in his case dog clippers) up against Simone’s marauding ogre.
After a riveting 105 minutes you’ll be howling at the moon at the devastating conclusion.
At almost an hour longer, the grimly violent pulp of writer/director S Craig Zahler’s Dragged Across Concrete has its gripping moments, but, like Marcello’s pups, badly needs a trim.
Controversial filmmaker and original Mad Max star Mel Gibson and Wedding Crashers’ Vince Vaughn play violent, racist cops Brett and Anthony.
Suspended after being busted on video roughing up a Latino perp, they decide to make ends meet by robbing murderous bank robbers.
At first it seems like a meta-commentary on Gibson’s disgrace for anti-Semitic rants and domestic violence. But it kinda pulls a Three Billboards, increasingly framing the bad cop duo as anti-heroes.
Stealing the show, True Detective star Tory Kittles plays Henry, an African-American man recently released from prison and drawn into getaway driving to keep his family afloat.
His choices inexorably tie him to Brett and Anthony as the movie inches painfully slowly towards its thrilling shootout finale.
Sadly that doesn’t happen before it pulls its grossest stunt, introducing one female character pretty much for heinous laughs before dispensing with her the very next scene.
Zahler, not shy of stirring controversy, told The Ringer he doesn’t care what folks make of his brutal movies or casting choices: “I’m not making movies and writing books and doing all these things to become popular or for people to like me.”
Stuffed with wooden dialogue and dubious politics, there’s still a grim fascination to this pulpy story shot in a fizzing streetlamp glow.
How up you are for Gibson’s career resuscitation may be decided by seeing Dragged Across Concrete.
If you only choose one, you’d be barking up the right tree with Dogman.
Dogman and Dragged Across Concrete are in cinemas nationally from August 29