Crazy dog, a serial killer of the 80s, who seems killing randomly. Marco Costa, son of one the victims, decides to investigate on his father’s murder. Crazy dog was suicide or the truth is more complicated than that?
Opening with the murder of a terrified man in a public park in 1983, ‘Crazy Dog’ wastes no time with setting up its tight premise – a serial killer is picking off seemingly random people in Rome, leaving his signature (literally) on each victim to alert the police to who was responsible. We jump forward to the present, and the now-grown son of one of the victims, Marco Costa (Gian Marco Tavani) has a clearly vested interest in finding the killer. His quest for information brings him to the door of esteemed criminologist, Raul Chinna (Marco Bonetti).
Raul begins to recount the history of the case, and before we know it, we are back to 1983 again. Here we meet the young-but-brilliant investigative reporter, David (Giuseppe Schisano) a man obsessed with the case and seemingly driven to frustration by the lack of leads on who the killer is. As the bodies begin to pile up, he enlists the help of a corrupt police official, and soon finds himself drawn into the world of a criminal who may hold the key to the killers’ motives. Is it possible that there might be a connection between the victims? And is the killer actually hiding in plain sight?
‘Crazy Dog’ is certainly an ambitious film. Clearly shot on a very limited budget with a minimal cast, the director, David Petrucci (who also acted as editor, producer and cinematographer), manages to accomplish quite a bit within these constraints. The films looks good for the most part; with the active camera work and stylish lighting helping keep the ‘cheap’ feeling at bay. The performances are a mixed bag, but genre fans will be happy to see Tinto Brass and Franco Nero’s names appearing in the opening credits. Sure, they’re essentially just extended walk- on moments, but they do add to the fun and production value. Besides, Nero probably has one of the best moments in the film – the man certainly hasn’t lost the ability to steal scenes over the years.
Sadly, the same can’t be said for the rest of the cast. The weakest link is Giuseppe Schisano, and unfortunately most of the emotional aspects of the film fall on his shoulders. His performance feels much too one-note, but this isn’t helped with the script which is patchy in quite a few places. We are treated to several extended montages of David’s mental breakdown throughout the film, and these moments feel really awkwardly acted and directed. These moments also seem quite puzzling within the context of the story (just why is David so obsessed with the case so early on?), and they are eventually explained in the lengthy denouement, but still, they tend to take you out of the film at these points.
I won’t give it too hard a time for these issues, though, as even though the script seems to be leaving too many loose strands throughout, they‘re all tied up quite neatly in the climax, and the film does reach quite a satisfying conclusion. It is unfortunate though that the very nature of how the story is told (the constant cutting back and forth from 1983 to the present) renders it a tension-less affair for most of the running time. This is especially evident in the majority of the murder scenes, which are completely devoid of atmosphere and pacing. The kills themselves are fairly tame for the most part (the odd close-up of a knife stab here and there), and the action scenes are quite flat and without much choreography. This of course ties back to that miniscule budget, and Petrucci wisely makes the film much more of a talk-piece, as the few fleeting moments of action leave a lot to be desired.
Ultimately, it’s the spreading thin of talent and resources that drags ‘Crazy Dog’ down. Despite the directors’ best attempts to conceal the budget, it eventually becomes too hard to ignore, meaning your attention is distracted by poorly staged violence, cheap sets and unintentionally funny acting, when really we should have been getting sucked into the mystery and plot twists. It’s a pity, as Petrucci is clearly aiming high instead of trying to thread the well-worn ‘easy’ path, and with a bigger budget, he could probably do great things. As it stands though, ‘Crazy Dog’ does manage to entertain for its 85 minute running time, and if you’re willing to look past the budget and acting, polizio and Italian genre fans might find something of worth here.