De Palma’s Domino (2019)

I said that I wouldn’t write negative reviews on this blog so I’ll try to find something positive to say about the mess that is Brian De Palma’s 2019 thriller Domino (currently streaming on Netflix). Any superficial criticism of the film can begin with the lack of originality in the title (the late Tony Scott also directed a film with the same title). More serious criticism can be the leveled at the film’s broad depiction of Islamic terrorists, its often poor-paced editing, and its general low-budget aesthetic.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (famous thanks to Game of Thrones) plays a Copenhagen police detective whose partner is killed on a routine arrest gone wrong due to Coster-Waldau forgetting his service weapon (just one of several implausibilities in the plot), Carice van Houten (also a veteran of Game of Thrones) plays another Copenhagen cop looking for the man who killed NCW’s partner, and Guy Pearce is a C.I.A. operative in possession of the killer everyone else is looking for.

Domino starts off as a film noir complete with a very traditional symphonic score and jarringly becomes an espionage film when it is revealed that the man who killed the hero’s partner is also looking for revenge against an ISIS leader who killed his father (you get an idea of how plotty this film is). So nearly every Muslim in the film is portrayed as a terrorist except for the necessary Muslim cop fighting with the good guys. De Palma rather recklessly includes a mass shooting at a film festival. The world has enough of these horrors already, and cinema doesn’t need to depict them especially if Muslims are to be typecast as the shooters.

The film’s edits seem to happen a beat or two before expected giving the editing an unnaturally noticeable feel. There is a great, nearly wordless sequence at a bullfight (this coming from someone who hates bullfights) that is both suspenseful and recalls silent films.

What else can I say that’s positive when it comes to such an unnecessary film? Well, Coster-Waldau is likable and handsome, Pearce is fun to watch as usual, and at least De Palma is still making movies.

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