Film Review: Domino

Brian De Palma’s Domino is a curious little thriller. The narrative suggests a serious tone, which is contradicted by the style. 

Detectives Christian and his long-time partner Lars attempt to apprehend a suspect, but something goes wrong. Christian wants revenge for his critically injured partner, but terrorists and the CIA have other ideas…

Domino is a by-the-numbers thriller, focusing on that familiar avenging a fallen partner strand. Here, the action takes place in Copenhagen, with Christian attempting to uncover the web that is behind the criminal who has gravely injured his partner. The film gives a contemporary twist by involving the perpetrator with an ISIS cell in Europe. Screenwriter Petter Skavlan’s narrative is not particularly illuminating however. There is little to no nuance to most of the characters, with the antagonists appearing especially one dimensional. 

Moreover, the direction that the narrative takes is not particularly gripping. The presence of the CIA seems only there to paint the organisation in a bad light, as justifiable as this may be. As Christian and Alex track the perpetrators, the tension that should be present is absent. The twist gives an interesting angle, but the characters have not been sufficiently developed to move the audience. 

At odds with the serious plot is the style of Domino. A director known for his flair, Brian De Palma’s choices here certainly are interesting. The frequent cuts zooming ever closer to objects gives the film an overblown air. This coupled with the intrusive score makes the film feel more like a parody than a serious thriller. By juxtaposing a playful style with a serious plot, it is unclear what De Palma was hoping to achieve. Coupled with a bizarre climax, the film is a tonal mess. 

Domino features some very good actors, yet their performances are lacking here. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau seems ill at ease in the leading role, and Carice van Houten fails to convince. Guy Pearce meanwhile delivers an almost comical turn. 

Domino is undoubtedly one of De Palma’s worst efforts. Hopefully it is a blip in an otherwise commendable tenure.

Domino is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital HD from 5th August 2019.

Film Review: Phantom of the Paradise

Phantom of the Paradise

Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise gets a Blu-Ray release for the first time. The film is entertaining horror rock opera.

When music producer Swan hears the music of composer and singer Winslow Leach, he thinks it would be perfect to open his new concert hall ‘The Paradise’. Unbeknownst to Winslow, Swan has made a satanic pact and intends to steal the music…

1974’s Phantom of the Paradise is a lot of fun. The film combines overt references to Faust with aspects of The Phantom of the Opera and The Picture of Dorian Gray. This gothic narrative is played out to a rock’n’roll soundtrack.

Brian De Palma’s film combines a musical with horror in Phantom of the Paradise. The high camp of the music, costumes and sets is an irrefutable product of the 1970s. The horror of film is never outwardly frightening. Instead, there is a malevolence that pervades the picture. This at times contrasts with the upbeat music and the camp aesthetic, generating a curious but appealing confection of the macabre and the jocose.

Phantom of the Paradise functions as a parody of the music industry, with the quest for fame, youth and success taken to extremes. Writer and director De Palma clearly has fun with this production. Some of the ostentatious stylings visible here recur in his later films. Events in the film veer between following the Faust narrative and complete unpredictability. Due to the fantastic nature, none of the occurrences are too out of place.

Paul Williams makes an interesting antagonist in that he seems out of place as Swan. There is less menace, given his satanic pact, but perhaps this is because De Palma wanted to eschew traditional roles with his parody. William Finley is decent as the tortured composer Leach.

Phantom of the Paradise is an enjoyable precursor to De Palma’s most famous works.  An entertaining slice of 1970s kitsch.

Phantom of the Paradise is available on Blu-Ray from 24th February 2014.