Review: Domino (2019)

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

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PLOT: A Copenhagen cop (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) seeks revenge for his former partner, with his trail of vengeance putting him hot on the trail of an international terrorist with links to ISIS.

REVIEW: DOMINO marks director Brian De Palma’s first film since his poorly received PASSION. Plagued by production problems (which De Palma himself has spoken out about and apparently resulted in a streamlined final cut), this VOD potboiler might be of some interest to “Game of Thrones” fans, as it teams not one but two stars from the show (Waldau and Carice van Houten). Overall, though, it’s hardly indicative of De Palma’s best work.

It would be interesting to know how much control De Palma had over the final product, which runs a quick eighty-nine minutes. At times it plays almost like a spoof of De Palma, with lots of slow-motion and an old-fashioned score by mainstay Pino Donaggio, but it also feels compromised, with the story pretty two-dimensional. Simply put, it feels like things are missing. An international thriller done in the style of DRESSED TO KILL might have been interesting, but other than a few fun moments, this is pretty flat. Even his lower-wattage vehicles like THE BLACK DAHLIA feel more thought-out than this messy thriller. 

Waldau is always solid, and he does his best to ground things as the film’s tortured hero. He's a capable leading man, and he also manages to sell his character's shortcomings, with his partner being gravely wounded as the direct result of him forgetting his service revolver due to being distracted by a morning dalliance. This leads him on an international manhunt where he teams with his partner's former lover (Carice van Houten – in an atypically sympathetic part) to pursue the baddie, who turns out to only be a cog in a complicated plot to take down an ISIS agent headed by a shadowy CIA operative played by Guy Pearce (in a role that only lasts a few scenes and feels like it might have been a casualty of editing).

The pace feels out of whack, simultaneously too slow but then, moments later, too fast to really get a handle on what’s happening. In perhaps the film’s only real moment of inspiration, the baddie responsible for wounding Waldau’s partner is shown to be at least somewhat sympathetic, having his own reasons to want to take down ISIS, although the CIA tactics mean Waldau's partner is just collateral damage. Given how simplistic the other baddies in the film are, it’s interesting that De Palma sets up this dichotomy. For the most part, though, the other baddies are faceless members of a cell, and soon enough the movie turns into a generic race against time by our two cop heroes to prevent them from bombing an event in Spain.

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Even if the script, or whatever part of it was filmed, comes off as by-the-numbers, the film could have been salvageable with a few juicy De Palma moments. While a rooftop chase near the start is good, De Palma opts to shoot the finale in slow-motion, similar to many other famous scenes from his films, but the action isn’t impressive enough to be done this way. It feels like a weak copy of much better scenes (like the big shoot-out in THE UNTOUCHABLES). The only moment that really stands out is a terrorist attack on a film festival shown in split-screen, another signature De Palma moment.

In the end, it’s impossible to say whether or not the finished film is a good representation of De Palma’s vision, but as it stands it’s a cheesy, not-very-good chase thriller. Waldau is good (for a far superior film with him in the lead – watch SHOT CALLER), but both he and De Palma (and van Houten!) deserve better. This is only worth watching for hardcore De Palma completists.




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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.