Production issues were evident in Domino and the over-stylized pace kills any suspense it tries to build.
Brian De Palma directed multiple box office smash films that have stood the test of time, that were not necessarily even critical darlings. Whom they call the master of the macabre helmed Carrie and of course his most famous film, Scarface, which are now considered classics. Dressed To Kill and one of his more restrained films, The Untouchables, are still held in high regard. Even Casualties of War has one of the more polarizing scenes in film history. He can also be one of the maddeningly inconsistent show-offs, which is evident in his new film, Domino; this may be his most consistent trait.
Don’t get me wrong, some trademarks that made De Palma a Hollywood mainstay, even legend, are still there. Here though his penchant for moments of shocking violence, an overdone musical score, and painfully slow-playing reveals are evident here. Sometimes this works, like in Dressed To Kill, other times it fails, like in the ’90s Nicolas Cage vehicle Snake Eyes. The first 20 minutes of Domino though work fairly well, with clear nods to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo with a tense rooftop chase and homage to the master of suspense’s taste in musical shadowing (it has been well documented the director he most admired was Hitch). That though is about as close to the best vintage De Palma we get.
Domino was plagued from production issues from the start, think Medallion in HBO’s Entourage, but on a lower scale. First, Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks was replaced for Carice van Houten. The money was pulled halfway through, cutting off trips to Belgium and the Netherlands. There were reported problems with extras and scenes cut short, there are clear uses of green screens with multiple scenes from the halfway point to the end of the film (see the picture with Guy Pearce and Eriq Ebouaney above).
Domino was supposed to be a launching vehicle for Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s film career after Game of Thrones, but the script sees his Detective Toft on the trail of the murder of his partner, which ruins any suspense since the basic film summary reveals this, yet it doesn’t come to fruition until an hour into this film that is anything but a psychological thriller (unless this was some kind of 90-minute Stanford Prison Experiment). Instead, De Palma’s over-stylized pace kills any suspense the film attempts to build, production issues or not. The script by Petter Skavlan (Kon-Tiki) is bordering on mind-numbing and stretched beyond its limits in a final product where no one gets away clean. It practically topples over on top of itself with every mistake it makes.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.