Domino is a Danish-French-Italian-Beligan-Netherlandish co-production helmed by that most baroque practitioner of B-movie violence, Brian De Palma. It will play exclusively in L.A. while being released simultaneously on VOD. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones) plays Christian, a Danish detective with a close-knit relationship with his older partner, Lars (Søren Malling). A domino effect is set in motion when Christian carelessly leaves his service weapon at his apartment, eventually leading to an altercation with a violent suspect that puts Lars into a coma.
His license suspended, Christian resolves to avenge himself on the perpetrator, Tarsi (a physically commanding Eriq Ebouaney), who is now in the hands of CIA agents led by Joe Martin (Guy Pearce, doing a very good, funny, but distracting southern accent). The Americans want to use Tarsi to track an ISIS member known as Salah Al Din before he can perpetuate more mass murders. Working outside the system, Christian teams up with another officer, Alex (Carice van Houten — Melisandre from Game of Thrones), to get to Al Din first.
There are few American directors besides De Palma whose fame rests primarily on the giddy employment of classical cinema mechanics. Schooled in the days before Steadicam and CGI, he is still among the most technically proficient of craftsmen, although he hasn’t made a film on his home turf since The Black Dahlia in 2006.
An early rooftop chase sequence, complete with vertiginous camera angles and two-story drop into a crate of produce, indicates that he still derives some pleasure in the application of Hitchcockian technique. (Never mind the distracting Pino Donaggio score, which rips off certain passages of Bernard Herrmann’s North by Northwest.) One nevertheless discerns a lack of emotional commitment to Petter Skavlan’s cookie-cutter screenplay, which places Islamic terrorism front and center, and consequently feels very 2015. (The production stalled due to cash flow problems with the investors.)
While De Palma seems averse to exploring the inner lives of any of the characters, he is clearly preoccupied with the spectacle of mass slaughter. At about the halfway mark, the film introduces a nightmarish contraption reminiscent of the camera/mirror/knife from Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom: an automatic rifle equipped with a camera aimed at the target and another pointed back at the gunner. The payoff is a chilling coda that suggests that after the bad guys are taken down, the spirit of evil persists in the form of new media.
But by the time we arrive at the big climactic set piece—a bomb scare set in the Plaza de Toros de Almería — De Palma has succumbed to his usual indulgences: ludicrously prolonged slow-motion and overweening musical cues.
AMC Rolling Hills, 2591 Airport Drive, Torrance; Fri., May 31, various showtimes. (310) 326-5011.