DOMINO Review: De Palma’s Latest Crime Thriller Hinges On Espionage, Retribution And Meandering Romance
There’s nothing hugely enticing about Brian De Palma’s latest crime thriller, Domino, unless you’re the kind of person who’s into sordid love affairs as part of the story. Terrorism also serves pretty feasibly when it comes to crime storytelling and there’s no question De Palma certainly knows his way around the craft given his stellar resumè.
I don’t really know De Palma’s politics and so I can only imagine how he might have felt about tackling this kind of particular story in today’s not-so-black-and-white atmosphere – often rife with absolutist mindsets about national security. Perhaps if you can suspend disbelief for 90 minutes then you might walk away from Domino feeling gratified with a taut, brutal thriller that isn’t afraid to gut-check you with not only violent, and often gory imagery, but such to serve as contextual in a way that teeters something pretty grimly close to reality. That is, unless otherwise.
Either way, this film definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. That’s pretty much the result you’re left with from screenwriter Petter Skavlan. Much of what remains with Domino from there sits at the edge of near-forgetability depending on how important you view the plot centered on the roles played by actors Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Søren Malling and actress Carice van Houten. The requisite motivations from at least one character were understandable, but the mediocrity is hard to ignore.
Enter Christian (Coster-Waldau) and Lars (Malling), two Copenhagen detectives who receive a call about a disturbance. They’re met and eventually tussle with an assassin named Ezra (Eriq Ebouaney) upon their arrival only for Ezra to escape after injuring Lars, but not before Christian discovers a grim torture scene and boxes of weapons and explosives in fruit boxes.
With Lars fighting for his life and Ezra gone, it’s up to Christian and officer Alex (van Houten) to pick up the slack as their investigation soon leads them progressively closer to the inner-workings of an ISIS terrorist cell in Europe. What they don’t know is Ezra is about to be used as a guinea pig by a duplicitous CIA agent named Joe (Guy Pearce) who is also hunting down the very terrorist cell now making the rounds.
Domino runs pretty high on its revenge undertones by the second half. The few, albeit watchable action scenes there are do keep things pretty intense and exciting and while the cast does manage to deliver a well-acted endevaor in Domino. Some of the more interesting scenes to look out for are from Pearce who can pretty much act his way through a glass of water and still sell tickets, and co-star Thomas W. Gabrielsson who plays Christian’s police senior.
The rest of the film challenges you the choice of supporting clearly flawed protagonists battling global terrorists. Given the angle here though, it could be worth the enjoyment; Domino admittedly adds an albeit interesting cherry-on-top for the drama with its love triangle aspect, and the film defintely takes out the trash when it comes to dealing with bad guys. At least one third-act death scene made me laugh my ass off, so…I can’t really say this film is a total loss.
Saban Films will release Domino in theaters and On Demand May 31, 2019.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.
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