DePalma’s Slow-Burn Crime Thriller ‘Domino’ is not his Saving Grace

Courtesy of Signature Entertainment

With the success of espionage and spy franchises currently in cinemas, it is no wonder that filmmakers and producers are eager to tackle the genre – seeing as slickly choreographed combat sequences, gore, and high stakes never fail to entertain. Domino seeks to alter the game by situating the story primarily in Copenhagen, Denmark, and away from Hollywood favourites such as that of London, Paris and practically anywhere in the United States. Director Brian De Palma, known for similar box-office hit Mission: Impossible, attempts to spin a revenge plot, characterised by that of a hard-boiled male protagonist with his sights set on those who harmed him and/or his loved ones. In this case, Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays Christian, a local police detective whose days are filled with patrolling the streets in the squad car he shares with his partner Lars (Søren Malling). 

Early one morning while Christian and Lars are out on patrol, they respond to a call from the police dispatcher in regards to a domestic outburst. Once they arrive on scene, the two detectives immediately apprehend the suspected perpetrator, Ezra Tarzi (Eriq Ebouaney) and restrain him. While Lars makes a call to the station about the man they’ve just arrested, Christian ventures further into the decrepit apartment complex to investigate the crime scene with his partner’s gun in hand, as he forgot to grab his own when scrambling out the door to work. Consequentially, Tarzi attempts to escape and slits the throat of the now-vulnerable Lars. Christian pursues him but eventually loses him, falling unconscious after plummeting from the roof of the apartment complex. Upon learning the following morning that his partner faces little chance of recovery, Christian takes matters into his own hands to hunt down Tarzi and find answers.

At his side is fellow cop Alex (Carice van Houten), who has personal reasons of her own for avenging Lars. As the pair dive deeper into the case, they emerge into the world of ISIS terrorism. Salah Al Din (Mohammed Azaay), a prominent leader within the organisation, is planning and executing a series of gruesome suicide bombings throughout Europe, all of which are broadcast live. At the same time, Tarzi is forced to cooperate with the CIA to track down Al Din, as they want to get their hands on him before the Danish police can. Unbeknownst to Christian or Alex, it is a race against time, as the ISIS authority is determined to make his methods and his cause known to the world. 

Courtesy of Signature Entertainment

Domino is a slow-burn crime thriller which showcases just how fragile the blanket of peace under which we all live and operate is, and how quickly events can spiral out of control. Unfortunately, the plot is far from original, and the stakes are set much too high for a film of only eighty minutes to satisfy. Coster-Waldau is a compelling lead, and it is ultimately his talent that keeps the film moving forward, despite the lack of chemistry between the rest of the cast on screen. The characters are rather bland and one-dimensional, with no growth taking place down the road. The action sequences are choppy and riddled with blood, and one has to ask whether or not the direction that the story line takes is inappropriate or extremely relevant, given the numerous tragic incidents that have occurred around the globe within the past year and half. The climax is sudden and weighed down by an air of disappointment.  

It is evident that the film is an effort by De Palma to re-establish himself in the blockbuster genre, but Domino is not his saving grace. The message he is aiming to convey is disguised by other sub-par aspects of the film, specifically its editing. The cliffhanger we are left with seconds before the credits roll is unsettling; as a viewer, one can’t help but realise that, though fictional, this is the reality that we are actually facing in the world beyond our screens. Despite the good intentions of the law and its many diligent servants such as Christian, it is not enough to stop the horrors from happening. De Palma whisks viewers back to that sad reality, instead of helping them escape to a more distracting one. 

Domino is out on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital on August 5th

by Kacy Hogg

Kacy is an English Lit student living in the Great White North (no not Winterfell unfortunately), Canada. Her favorite films include the Harry Potter series, CinderellaCaptain America: The Winter SoldierThe Hangover, and Lady Bird. She’s also an avid binge-watcher of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. You can follow her on Twitter here: @KacHogg95

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