Domino is a new action-thriller directed by Brian De Palma (Scarface, The Untouchables) and written by Petter Skavlan (The 12th Man). The film is about a police officer from Copenhagen who, in an effort to track down and apprehend the person who shot his partner, gets caught up in a web involving a rogue ISIS militant and a CIA agent who is using him to take down terrorist cells.
This movie’s problems start with its story, but don’t end there. The story is as generic and predictable as they come, but somehow, it still manages to feel overly convoluted and sometimes confusing. The three-pronged nature of the narrative is not effective because the film was unable to balance the storylines adequately, and as such, the movie starts to seem like a procedural television show, and not in a good way.
The pacing of the film is also noticeably inconsistent. Much of the movie is characterized by bursts of intensity scattered throughout a bunch of contrived dialogue and exposition. About an hour in, a longer action sequence begins, that plays out, and then… the movie’s over. The ending is just as if not more infuriating than the hour that came before it. This is the rare case in which a film actually should have been twenty to thirty minutes longer than it is to accommodate all of its plot threads.
Furthermore, you couldn’t care less about any of the characters in the movie. For a story like this to be effective, a film needs to have legitimate and substantial character development. The only reason we are supposed to sympathize with the protagonist is that his partner has died. Otherwise, he is flat and archetypal. Obviously, the ISIS character is not supposed to be sympathetic. As for the CIA agent, you’re not really sure how you’re supposed to feel about him, but this ambiguity is confusing rather than alluring.
The performances in the movie aren’t particularly impressive either. This is a shame given the fact that De Palma has directed some of the most iconic performances in cinema history (no one will ever forget Pacino as Scarface). Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) plays the lead character, and he is extremely wooden. His emotional moments do not land at all. Granted, this can be partially blamed on the script, but his delivery didn’t help. Guy Pearce (Memento) phones in his supporting role.
That being said, perhaps the most frustrating about the film is the unprofessional way in which the action was shot. Quite honestly, you would expect more than this from someone who made the first Mission: Impossible movie. The choreography is bland and done in a way to maximize blood and shock value. One sequence depicting a mass shooting makes the violence feel particularly tasteless, as it has no impact on the progression of the narrative or the characterization.
On a technical level, the film was also very disappointing. If a movie is going to be reliant on bloody violence, the blood at least needs to look good, and the film managed to fail at that despite the fact that the budget was moderate for a B-movie actioner. The cinematography is terrible, having an aggressively digital feel, especially when the movie tries to feel “modern” by including simulated screens or other gimmicks.
Overall, Domino was an extremely disappointing film. Although the talent behind and in front of the camera would have suggested the movie to be more of a success, it seems almost like De Palma has stopped caring at this point in his career, or (at the very least) just didn’t care about this film.
Domino hits theaters and VOD on May 31.