7 Oct 2019

Movie review: Domino

From Widescreen, 3:16 pm on 7 October 2019

American filmmaker Brian De Palma is back in the director’s chair after seven years  – and the thriller he's made is out of time and out of taste, reports Dan Slevin.

It must be tough being Brian De Palma nowadays.

One of his contemporaries is preparing for his latest picture (the most expensive Netflix Original production ever) to sweep next year’s Oscars and go down in history as his crowning achievement...

Another is happily making extremely personal and extremely arty movies funded by the profits from his winery...

While De Palma’s latest film – his first in seven years – is a piece of direct-to-video dreck that demeans everyone involved.

De Palma's contemporaries from that golden age of masculine independent American cinema – Scorsese and Coppola – are sitting fairly pretty and he can’t, as they say, get arrested.

Having said that, De Palma’s presence in the director’s chair for Domino is really all that it has going for it.

A Euro-thriller inspired by ISIS terrorism and concerns about Muslim communities hiding evil-doers in plain sight, Domino is a film out of time and out of taste.

Perhaps it took too long to get the financing – from about a dozen different companies and with taxpayer subsidies from several territories – so by the time the cameras rolled its attitudes and fears were starting to smell pretty bad.

That isn’t even including a scene set at the opening of a film festival that would make any film fan – and anyone of aware of what happened in Christchurch on 15 March – nauseous.

Guy Pearce and Eriq Ebouaney face off in Domino.

Guy Pearce and Eriq Ebouaney face off in Domino. Photo: Defiant

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) plays Christian, a Copenhagen cop who is jolted out of his easy-going naivete when his partner is murdered by a Muslim migrant – with a false beard that reminded me of Lenny Henry’s impersonation of David Bellamy – who escapes with the help of some white men in grey suits.

Taken off the case by his boss because he is too damn close to it – and also because he managed to mislay his service pistol at a crucial moment – Christian becomes obsessed with solving the crime.

Why had the suspect tortured and murdered a man with bomb-making equipment and explosives in his apartment? Who helped him escape? Could this mysterious figure lead him to a notorious ISIS terrorist determined to use social media to spread his hatred?

Coster-Waldau is joined on his off-the-books quest by another cop Alex, played by Carice Van Houten (also from Game of Thrones).

Alex has her own reasons for pursuing the killer so they join forces and drive to Amsterdam, then fly to Almería in Spain where the terrorists seem to be able to come and go across the Mediterranean with ease.

There’s one sequence where you might say the vintage De Palma turns up – you can imagine him getting interested by the idea of a showdown at a bullfight featuring a drone – but the rest of it is De Palma by numbers, i.e. tired rehashing of Hitchcock motifs and a loud and insistent pseudo-classical soundtrack by Pino Donaggio.

Guy Pearce is the shadowy figure at the heart of Domino (Brian De Palma).

Guy Pearce is the shadowy figure at the heart of Domino (Brian De Palma). Photo: Defiant

Despite looking like a classically rugged leading man, Coster-Waldau seems to specialise in playing people who don’t really know what’s going on.

Carice Van Houten's Alex has only one characteristic and special guest star Guy Pearce appears to have a clause in his contract that specifies only one take per scene.

I had hoped that this film might bring De Palma classic thrillers like Dressed to Kill and Scarface back to mind, but instead, it is tired and dated hackwork by all concerned. Disappointing.

Domino is available now on Defiant Blu-ray and DVD. It’s rated R18 (Graphic violence, offensive language and cruelty).