The Copenhagen cop Christian (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is a pleasant fellow but not a terribly good police officer. Leaving his apartment to go on an early morning shift with his partner and pal Lars (Soren Malling), and distracted by the nude woman trying to get him to stay, Christian forgets to take his gun with him. Later, at a crime scene — a grisly torture-murder — he borrows his partner’s gun. This allows the fearsomely bearded suspect, Ezra (Eriq Ebouaney), to fatally assault that partner. During a rooftop chase that looks like the opening of Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” reimagined as a vintage Doublemint gum ad, Christian manages to lose the borrowed weapon, too.
Under other circumstances, the director, Brian De Palma, might have squeezed some mordant humor out of his protagonist’s ineptitude. De Palma’s career took off with the paranoid comedies “Greetings” and “Hi, Mom!” five decades back, and his filmography has encompassed horror, crime and other genres, all delivered with a sardonic edge. Even blockbuster exercises such as “Mission: Impossible” (1996) managed an acerbic undercurrent.
But “Domino,” arriving here after the director complained in at least one interview about the way the film’s producers treated him, isn’t all that unified with respect to the values it contains and excludes.
The movie shows almost no interest in a personal payback plot (the script is by Petter Skavlan), even after Christian is joined by Alex (Carice van Houten), who was closer to Lars than poor Christian is able to guess. As for Ezra, he’s nabbed by the glib C.I.A. chess master Joe Martin (Guy Pearce, having some fun) and compelled to continue killing. Shaving both his beard and his head, Ezra tracks the same jihadists that Christian and Alex find themselves pursuing.
And what jihadists they are. One of them has a machine-gun-mounted video camera with sensors recording both the shooter in close-up and the victims, and feeding the images to a split-screen display. The scene in which she takes the weapon/camera ensemble to the Netherlands Film Festival is quite a set piece.
De Palma can’t realize all the elaborate effects he clearly wanted (the film’s climax occurs at a bullfight that’s conspicuously not crowded). But his direction often compensates with B-movie energy, particularly when he’s able to concentrate on his perverse vision. The death-dealing, all-voyeurism-all-the-time world that De Palma has been imagining in some form or another since the late ’60s, has, he recognizes, finally come into actual being, and it’s worse than he, or anyone, ever imagined. At times during “Domino,” the director seems practically giddy about it.
Rated R for language, themes, violence, a paranoid vision of the world come true. Running time: 1 hour 29 minutes.