Any Brian De Palma is better than no Brian De Palma. That’s the way to look at any film from one of cinema’s greatest thriller directors. However, it’s a serious shame that 2019’s Domino feels like the master has had his edges shaved, leaving something of a generic thriller that fails to really register. Often seen as the enfant terrible of the 1970s Movie Brats, De Palma’s grandiose and operatic movies are often exercises in style over substance. Domino though is a movie that lacks substance and style, with just a few of De Palma’s trademarks left in place after a difficult shoot and an even more difficult post-production process.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays a Danish cop hot on the tail of the Eriq Ebouaney’s terrorist who killed his partner. (Søren Malling). He’s teamed with Carice van Houten’s fellow cop as he tracks the killer across Europe. Guy Pearce’s shady CIA agent throws complications into proceedings, playing both sides for his own gain.
Brian De Palma’s riffing on Hitchcock is legendary and he knows how to stage and shoot sequences like no other. He directs like a conductor, ushering moments forward and moving pieces to create greatness. There are a few moments in Domino where you see the director’s talent shining through. A rooftop fight is prime De Palma, with its staging and use of his beloved split diopter. A bull-ring finale also hits prime notes along with with Pino Donaggio’s lush score. These are standout moments but sadly the rest of the movie is a generic as its title (didn’t the mighty Tony Scott already make this with Keira Knightly?).
Game Of Thrones alumni Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Carice van Houten try their best with flimsily written roles and Pearce does a good job at chewing the scenery as US agent but sadly there’s not a lot for them to sink their teeth into. The script and story feels about two drafts away from the finished product and it’s a shame that there’s no complexity or depth to proceedings. People just seem to do things…well…just because, really.
You could never in all fairness call Domino a great movie or even a good one. Much of it just sits there limply, with the occasional flourish reminding you just how great Brian De Palma was in his prime. You could argue that the director’s vision was compromised by producers and that might well be the case, but it’s sad to see the man behind such operatic classics as The Untouchables, The Phantom of The Paradise and even the over-blown but lusciously beautiful The Bonfire Of The Vanities reduced to something so…average.