BARE-BONES DVD & BLU-RAY RELEASED YESTERDAY
Domino was released yesterday on Blu-ray and DVD. Fanboy Nation's Sean Mulvihill took a second look and found he had originally "undervalued" Brian De Palma's latest:
It’s something that has repeatedly happened over the years. Legendary director Brian De Palma released a new movie that was shrugged off as a minor work from the filmmaker despite its singular vision and meticulously crafted set pieces. This spring when De Palma’s Domino was released in select theaters and VOD, I, too, thought the film was a minor work from De Palma that featured two incredible sequences. I can’t believe that I, an absolute De Palma fanatic, made the same mistake that so many others had made. I undervalued a new De Palma flick. Revisiting Domino for its Blu-ray release, I was struck that De Palma has once again made an absolute killer thriller, a cynical film with strong political overtones and the director’s incredible knack for crafting suspense in the vein of Alfred Hitchcock. Simply put, despite what anyone has said, Domino rips."DAD AT THE MOVIES" SEES CUTS WHERE NONE EXIST...?
The screenplay for Domino by Petter Skavlan taps right into Brian De Palma’s cynicism, especially when it comes to American international interventionism. Look throughout De Palma’s filmmaking career and you see example after example of this robust skepticism about America’s ability to dictate its wishes to the world and Domino fits right in that mold, embodied by the brash, outlandish performance by Guy Pearce. Within the world of Domino, which is set in 2020, the reality of American involvement means that a rather simple murder case becomes increasingly complicated, with the CIA pull string behind the scenes and creating layers of distrust even amongst allies.
The way in which Domino features Islamist terrorists has caused a bit of an uproar because of the stereotypical nature. But De Palma injects a few wrinkles that take the director deeper into what terrorism truly is. He’s not interested in the religious motivations for terrorism, but how technology and visual storytelling can be used to spread the horror. Al Din and his cabal of terrorist cohorts speak of their religious jihad but they’re more focused on creating glossy portraits of terror, sensationalized videos of violence that will dominate news cycles and spread on the internet. De Palma is fascinated to see how easily his beloved visual medium can be utilized to spread evil.
Unfortunately, behind the scenes issues between the producers and De Palma have led to the director to all but abandon his film. The Blu-ray for Domino sadly boasts no special features. While one of the great American filmmakers continues to languish outside of the Hollywood system, he proves once again that when given the resources he can craft a sequence as good if not better than anyone. Domino is another highly cinematic work from Brian De Palma that dives into themes that the director has been exploring throughout his career, going all the way back to his breakthrough hit Greetings in the ‘60s. Time will tell if people finally get around to catching up with Domino, but I have a feeling that De Palma’s latest will build its dedicated cult following as it shows once again the master hasn’t lost his touch.
This genre is propelled by action sequences, and director Brian De Palma offers up some exciting set pieces, first with the attack that results in Lars’ death and a 007-worthy rooftop chase, then a gripping sequence at Spanish bullfight. The film itself is typical De Palma too, self-conscious of its medium even as it’s slyly self-referential. For example, a video posted by the terrorists is analyzed by the police for its use of camera angles and sophisticated cinematography techniques. Later, one of the terrorists attacks a film festival in a sequence told through video sequences watched on various computer laptops, a film-within-a-film.
Eriq Ebouaney has so much presence on camera that I also really wished for more of his story, more about Ezra Tarzi, his family, and how he ended up stuck in the middle between the Danish police, the CIA and ISIS. He’s an actor to watch, for sure, and has already had great success in Three Days to Kill, Kingdom of Heaven and Hitman.
Still, there’s a lot wrong with this story, not the least of which is that Christian is a miserable cop, so busy saying goodbye to his female friend that he forgets his gun as he heads out on patrol. He’s later suspended from the police force for such negligence, but that entire sequence – and its consequences in the subsequent story – are quickly subsumed and never appear again in the narrative. There are also long periods when Christian and Alex are driving or tailing the terrorists where there’s a weird absence of dialog. Moody? Yes, but in the “are we there yet?” sense.
What’s more frustrating is the lazy and somewhat insulting tendency of De Palma to zoom in on something to clue us in that it’s important to the story. This doesn’t just happen once (gun on table, cut to naked woman, cut to Christian walking out the door, cut and linger on gun still on table) but recurs throughout the film. Entirely suitable for manga, it’s a pet peeve of mine in cinema. Let us figure it out, don’t break the narrative with these foreshadowing close-ups or oh-so-obvious placements on camera.
There are a lot of pretty awful movies out there, however, so in the end I would assess Domino as a B grade film. If you like actioners, if you’re a big fan of Coster-Waldau (I am!) and van Houten (I am!), if you are a Brian De Palma completist, or you’re just looking to burn a few hours, Domino is mostly well assembled and muchly fun to watch. I’m just hoping for the director’s cut that chops out some of the banal elements and smooths the many narrative hiccups and cuts to weave the main story with the many secondary narrative elements. Now that would be a really good cop film.