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There are a number of reasons why the hollow new thriller Domino is a tough watch. Firstly, it’s inarguably dull, an 81-minute film that’s somehow still plagued with a lumbering pace. Secondly, it’s amateurishly made, devoid of any distinguishable style and at times even a base level of craftsmanship. Finally, and this is where it really stings, it’s directed by the veteran film-maker Brian De Palma. We’ve not yet reached the midpoint of 2019 but it’s hard to imagine the cinematic year including a more unintentionally depressing experience than watching a once great director sleepwalk his way through a film so crushingly irrelevant it’s almost worth ignoring its very existence.
That might sound hyperbolic but even the most casual cinemagoer will have a passing familiarity with De Palma’s work, from Carrie to Dressed to Kill to Blow Out to Scarface to The Untouchables to Mission: Impossible, and will inevitably compare his latest to his greatest. Even in his worst films, such as 2000’s slick, sentimental Mission to Mars, there are moments of visual ingenuity, a De Palmian flourish that would remind you that no matter the scale or levels of studio interference, he was incapable of fading into the background as an anonymous hired hack. What’s most frustrating about Domino is just how invisible De Palma has become, bringing a tired script to screen without any real panache or even effort, the work of a man who’s seemingly given up.
In the Kon-Tiki screenwriter Petter Skavlan’s slapdash plot, a Danish police officer, Christian (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), is seeking justice for his partner’s murder at the hands of a Libyan immigrant, Imran (Eriq Ebouaney), who is seeking his own brand of justice. In his search for the truth, Christian uncovers a plot involving police corruption, Isis, CIA interference and a new partner (Carice van Houten) with her own secrets.
If there’s anything positive to be gleaned from Domino, it’s that De Palma doesn’t really seem to like it either. It was made two years ago but buzz remained minimal, and rumours suggested some sort of fallout between De Palma and the film’s financiers. Last year he sort of confirmed this, claiming it wasn’t technically his project as he didn’t write the script and that he’d never experienced a more horrible movie-set in his long and storied career. One can only imagine the level of conflict that led to a film as misjudged and shoddily realised as this, but there’s some reassurance in knowing that De Palma is at least somewhat aware of the quality of his finished product.
But quite why he’d attach himself to such a pedestrian script in the first place is staggeringly unclear. His last film, Passion, a silly remake of a tawdry French thriller, at least touched upon themes he’d spent most of his career obsessed with and allowed him some fun, telling the story of two business rivals trapped in a twisty erotic web. There’s no such lurid appeal to Domino and no real attempt to add his stamp to the proceedings. From the stiff opening to the rushed climax, it’s close to unbelievable that De Palma was even on set for production. The score is flat yet intrusive, the camerawork is uninspired and there’s a near total lack of personality. Near the end, there’s a haphazard attempt at a set-piece at the Almeria bullring but his trademark Hitchcockian touch is used in almost a parodic way, as if he couldn’t quite manage to do it properly. There’s a cheapness to the film, all the way down to the casting, and Coster-Waldau proves yet again that life for him as a leading man is going to be difficult outside of Game of Thrones. He fares better than Guy Pearce, though, hamming it up as a thinly etched CIA agent, a performance to be mercifully excised from his filmography.
In fact, even die-hard De Palma completists would be better served by forgetting this one exists – a tedious, ugly thriller devoid of anything to say that will serve as a regrettable footnote for a distinguished film-maker who is capable of so much more.
Source: The Guardian
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