“Nothing works like vengeance.”
Directed by Brian De Palma, Domino features Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Carice van Houten and Guy Pearce. The initial setup is a police bust gone wrong, as Christian (Waldau) seeks revenge for the murder of his partner. Investigating it further opens up an unforeseen threat of digital terrorism.
After seemingly disappearing into the void of shelved projects, Brian De Palma’s latest feature arrives soon on for home entertainment consumption. It’s no secret that Domino has gone through a troubled production. De Palma has gone on record about the experience, albeit shedding a not so bright on the journey that has led to its release. Despite all that, how does Domino stand in De Palma’s recent efforts?
It’s…complicated. You see, all the De Palma-isms are there. When they are left to expand naturally, it’s easy to forget the problems that arise as Domino unfolds. The slow, calculated zooms and Hitchcockian influence show their faces as expected but in a subdued fashion.
An earlier scene comprised solely of a palpable zoom onto a handgun, while a separate entity of pulp cascades in the environment brought a huge smile to my face (this IS De Palma). Shortly after, we are blessed with extreme close up split-diopter shots and a rooftop chase that is less Quantum of Solace and more Vertigo. Sequences like these are the reason why De Palma, when allowed to let loose, is a director that captivates with an unrivalled aura of pulp brilliance. Ultimately, Domino wants to be just that: pulp.
Beneath the awkward edits and scattershot narrative is a deliciously schlocky terror thriller rooted in technological warfare in the same vein as Michael Mann’s vastly underrated Blackhat. Interrogations where adults shock and awe young children with the brutality of consequence are heightened by De Palma’s fixation on the scanline induced dread of surveillance. There is a conversation to be had, again similar to that of Blackhat, about the urgency of fear that technology provides in the context of warfare. Control is just a digital luxury to those who can wield it.
The climactic confrontation at a bullring, in an odd turn, has maybe the best usage of drones and kicking someone in the genitals as of late? I definitely didn’t anticipate it that’s for sure. Dressing this film with a sumptuous yet bombastic score is Pino Donaggio, a long time collaborator of De Palma’s.
It’s not surprising that his work here once more is gloriously dramatic. Elevating what would be otherwise subpar sequences of undercooked dialog and the moments where De Palma flexes his true talents, Donaggio’s work is still as important as ever.
Domino isn’t up to scratch with most of De Palma’s filmography, but is still a statement as to why his voice is still resonant, given the opportunity to work in his own boundaries. At this point, I’m just happy to get my eyes set on a new project from the man.
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