Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Domino Principle (1977)

My hunt for every conspiracy thriller from the seventies goes on and I found The DominoPrinciple more or less my coincidence while reading a fun article about all the odd movies Mickey Rooney has done over the years. What struck me with this title was the classy cast and still it's such a forgotten movie? I can understand it's not the most loved thriller in this specific sub-genre, but that doesn't mean it's a damn fine piece of art.

Gene Hackman is a typical jailbird, Roy Tucker. Going in and out, getting himself into deep shit. He's a nice man deep inside, but with an almost psychopathic streak that he brings forth when he needs to. Now he's in for murder, at least 15 years behind bars. Until one day when Tagge (Richard Widmark) shows up and offer him freedom - IF he does something special in return. A series of sessions with questions and analyzes starts, until they think he's the best man to do an assassination. Tucker agrees, but he wants his pal Spiventa (Mickey Rooney) to be set free at the same time. Well outside he realizes that not everything is what it seems and he's stuck in a web of conspiracy...

The Domino Principle actually never focuses that hard on either the assassination or on the organization behind it. Instead it's a slow-burned of a movie, focusing on Tucker and how he sees everything from his viewpoint. His contacts in the organisation is just men with suits telling him what to do, he's really just a marionette - but the questions is of course if he's gonna play by their strings? Candice Bergen plays his wife, also a criminal - and it feels like they both are white trash stuck in something much bigger, something they can't stop. Yeah, the domino principle. If one piece falls all the others do so also.

This movie was made during a period when Hackman almost said yes to everything that had a good salary and I'm not the only one that actually likes this period a lot. Because he obviously said yes to a lot of good movies, great scripts, at the same time. The Domino Principle is very downbeat and dark, a cynical look at the United States and Tucker is just a nobody in the middle of it - which make the emotional part even stronger. Don't expect much action or chases. There's a couple of deaths, some explosion - but that's it. It's not an action-thriller, it's a thriller-drama. If you watch it with those expectations you won't join the mindless mass of idiots who comments at IMDB.

The great cast is great, but on top of everyone is a very quirky and convincing performance by former teen-star Mickey Rooney as an older, even more cynical prisoner. There's a wonderful sequence, a dialogue, between him and Hackman when both are lying in their beds in their cell and he talks about his fathers (or if it was grandfathers) delicatessen. At one point he stops talking, looks down at his chest and starts spinning the chest hair to a spiral-shaped tussel, looks impressed, and then continues again. I have no idea why, but it's a great detail in a great scene.

The Domino Principle starts of slow but builds a wonderful and doomed tension that's hard to forget. It deserves a little bit more positive attention than it's gotten so far. 


Anonymous said...

I'm one of those that never heard of it. Shame. Another one to check out, theh. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Sounds very cool haven´t seen it....are you going to review The Package (1989) as well..?

Ninja Dixon said...

Gekko, it's worth watching!

The Package, maybe... but right now I want to see Narrow Margin again, also with Hackman!