Domino (2019) Review

Not to be confused with the late Tony Scott’s 2005 movie of the same name, Brian De Palma’s first movie in seven years since 2012’s Passion is sadly a victim of troubled production history. This includes everything from insufficient funding to a delayed release date and now, the movie itself has since got dumped on VOD in the US and only a handful of selected cinemas in some countries.

Before I move on with the review, here’s basically what Domino is all about: Copenhagen cop Christian (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, best known for his role as Jaime Lannister in TV’s Game of Thrones) is determined to apprehend  a fugitive ISIS member Ezra Tarzi (Eriq Ebouaney) after fleeing from custody and killed his partner Lars Hansen (Søren Malling).

Soon, he finds himself teaming up with a new partner named Alex (Carice van Houten — yes, another Game of Thrones alumni who played the role of Melisandre a.k.a. the Red Woman) to unfold a terrorist plot involving Ezra’s ISIS leader Salah Al-Din (Mohammed Azaay) in addition to his own personal vendetta.

Running a scant 88 minutes, it is obvious that a lot of footage gets butchered during post-production. Which explained why the movie feels like it suffers from numerous narrative shortcuts just to get the point across. Narrative-wise, everything gets muddled. First, the movie didn’t bother to address Christian’s guilt over his partner’s death in a substantial way. Then, there’s Ezra along with a CIA agent played by Guy Pearce whose both respective agendas are just as haphazardly told. If that’s not enough, Alex has a personal agenda of her own but merely served as a superficial plot device just like the others. Elsewhere, the depiction of the ISIS terrorists in Domino resembled more of standard-issue movie caricatures. The kind of antagonists belongs in a B-movie universe. And what’s with the significance of setting the movie on June 10, 2020?

The acting is mostly average but Nikolaj Coster-Waldau surprisingly fares the worst with his flat lead performance as Christian. The least saving grace is some of De Palma’s signature visual flourishes, namely the split-diopter shot during the earlier part of the movie, the rooftop chase scene and a split-screen setpiece involving an ISIS member gunning down everyone during a red carpet event of a film festival. But the climactic finale that takes place in an Almeria bullring is laughably bad, with De Palma’s trademark use of elaborate slow-motion feels more like a parody rather than something thrilling and suspenseful.

While Domino is far from his worst effort to date (that honour still goes to Mission to Mars and The Black Dahlia), it certainly ranked as one of the most forgettable and lesser movies in his decades-long career as a director.

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