Review Round-Up: “Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock & Roll” Hits High Notes And “Domino” Is A Low Point For Brian De Palma


First of all, I hope everyone enjoyed their Memorial Day Weekend festivities! We’re back today with another review round-up, citing a pair of smaller releases hitting theaters this week. The titles for this particular round-up could not be more different from each other, in basically all ways possible. We have the documentary Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock & Roll on the one hand, along with the thriller Domino on the other. The former centers on the music scene in the small New Jersey town of Asbury Park, while the latter is the latest offering from Brian De Palma. One was pretty solid, while the other was terrible. Curious which is which? Read on for more…

Here we go:

Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock & Roll

Music is a part of our lives. Rock and roll, especially, has been the soundtrack to many of our fondest memories. When you think of your favorite tune, what location comes to mind? For a great many, particularly on the east coast, the Jersey Shore holds a special place in their heart. The town of Asbury Park, New Jersey, is known for being where Bruce Springsteen got his start. Beyond launching Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, it has been, for decades, a spot where a multitude of musicians collaborated. The documentary Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock & Roll pays tribute to the town, in all its multi shaded glory. After a special screening last week, it plays once again tomorrow and is well worth seeing.

The film is a documentary about the history, specifically the musical history, of the town of Asbury Park, New Jersey. A troubled area for much of its modern times, the doc looks in part at how music brought the community together. Initially, Asbury Park was a little seaside resort town, though one that would be quickly divided during a rough summer, one filled with civil unrest. The issues there would continue on for decades, though music has also been a constant here. Between musical legends like Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt, alongside local studs like Southside Johnny, the doc investigates just what music has meant to the town, the townspeople, and society on the whole. In short, the heart and soul of the community is explored. Tom Jones directs.

If you’re a rock and roll fan, whether Bruce Springsteen or otherwise, you probably have enjoyed music that came out of Asbury Park. This movie hones in on that and asks you to consider where that music came from. What Jones and company lack in style, they make up for with substance, specifically when you get doses of wisdom from Springsteen and company. If the narration sounds like something cheap and produced locally by the Asbury Park Chamber of Commerce, the way songs are intertwined with images of the town in crisis are handled quite compellingly. There’s passion behind this, no question about that, and that fuels the doc in a big way.


If you like the music that came out of the town of Asbury Park, you’ll almost certainly like this documentary. Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock & Roll offers a glimpse not only inside of the minds who created that music, but the area in which it was formed. Locals may think this is all second nature, but anyone not fully immersed in the history of the Jersey town will likely find plenty to enjoy here. It’s a small scale doc, to be sure, but one with plenty going in its favor. Give it a shot and see what you think. If nothing else, it has a hell of a great soundtrack…

Be sure to check out Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock & Roll when it screens again on May 29th!

Domino

Brian De Palma has made some great films over the course of his career. He’s also made some real cinematic dogs. Those hoping for a return to form with Domino are sadly going to be sorely disappointed. The police procedural/thriller, opening this week, after a long time stuck on the cinematic shelf, is one of the worst of the legendary director’s career. Playing closer to a parody of his style at times, you can’t help but be puzzled as to why this project caught his eye. Poorly conceived, oddly directed, indifferently acted, and without any sort of compelling payoff, it’s one of the worst releases of 2019 so far. There’s no pleasure in bashing the man, but De Palma just absolutely misfires here.

The movie is a globe hopping thriller, one that forms out of a standard police procedural. Cop Christian (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his partner Lars Hansen (Søren Malling) have a close relationship. When not at work, Christian will occasionally dine at Lars’ home. One night, as the latter is picking the former up for work, a gun is left at home. That mistake, due to sexual activity in the hours before, will ultimately cost Lars his life. This murder, done by terrorist Ezra Tarzi (Eriq Ebouaney), who we come to learn is forced into his actions by jihadist and ISIS cell leader Salah Al-Din (Mohammed Azaay). Christian is suspended for the death of his partner, though that just sends him on a revenge mission off the books, partnered with another cop in Alex (Carice van Houten), who had a close relationship of her own with Lars. All the while, more attacks are being carried out, while a shady figure (Guy Pearce) hovers about. It eventually all comes together in the end, but you’re unlikely to care by that point. De Palma directs a script by Petter Skavlan, with cinematography by José Luis Alcaine and a score from Pino Donaggio. Supporting players include Nicolas Bro, Thomas W. Gabrielsson, Paprika Steen, and more.

What did De Palma see in his material? He’s above it, even considering his recent track record. Watching Domino, you just see a great filmmaker brought to his nadir. All of his filmmaking tricks, from POV shots to split screens, they’re here, but never have they been more poorly used. It’s conceivable that he thought depicting the world of terrorism through cinematic technology would be compelling, but it’s never even remotely (no pun intended) explored. Instead, it’s merely just one element of a flick without anything for an audience member to grab on to. Very few things so far this year have failed more fully and upsettingly than this one has.


On Friday, devoted fans of De Palma may want to look up this long delayed movie. More likely though, they should just stay away and revisit one of his better works. Domino is terrible and an insult to your intelligence. Any moment where the flick appears to be finding life, something dumb immediately happens to kill any potential momentum. This film would be unacceptable if found in the middle of the night on cable. Hell, it wouldn’t work as a long episode of any of the myriad shows of this ilk on television currently. It’s just bad. DePalma needs to go back to the drawing board, plain and simple…


Domino opens in theaters this weekend.

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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