Review by BRYAN YENTZ
Starring Kate Bosworth, Taylor Hoechlin, Lance Reddick, Sonoya Mizuno and David Dastmalchian
Written by Mike P. Nelson
Directed by Mike P. Nelson
Hollywood Gang Productions
Once in a blue moon, a straight-to-VOD movie hits the small screen with so much primal panache that it actually manages to take me by surprise. Released with a nearly nonexistent marketing campaign and total lack of any word of mouth, THE DOMESTICS caught my attention some time ago when I randomly discovered its portentous poster. The sight of a nail-studded axe with a maligned American flag painted over it began turning my cerebral cogs and I wanted to know just what this flick was all about. A home-invasion? A murder-mystery? An agenda-driven expose of cultural violence akin to the aggressively-shitty PURGE movies? As it turns out, it’s post-apocalyptic. Now, I know that such a genre (next to that of the ‘zombie’) has probably worn out its welcome (no thanks to such travesties as THE BAD BATCH and Franco’s recent FUTURE WORLD), but hear me out—this one is actually good. Not to mention damn ambitious to boot.
After an unspecified attack drenches the United States in a poisonous cloud of ebony, the survivors (those immune) are left with a choice: be rabbit or wolf. In the wake of America’s smoggy downfall, gangs have risen to take full advantage of the newfound lawlessness. Amidst the varying degree of hordes, a couple (Kate Bosworth and Tyler Hoechlin) on the verge of divorce make their journey to Milwaukee where they hope to be reunited with family. As expected, their trek is fraught with violence, betrayal and death.
Despite some editing hiccups in the early goings-on (regarding placement of characters to the environment they inhabit), THE DOMESTICS quickly finds its footing with an energetic pace, some brutally well-staged action and a consistently compelling cast of antagonists. Each region contains its own merciless posse that’s dictated rule, and thus, each are in constant war with the other. Much like MAD MAX, each throng contains their own attire, traits and preferred method of dispatch. For instance, “The Gamblers” are a group of animal-headed hicks who prefer betting on human lives, while “The Cherries” solely consist of female misandrists hoping to cleanse the nation of men. In between each faction are eclectic characters both a hindrance and advantage to our central protagonists.
The smorgasbord of savagery make for an unabashedly entertaining procession of visuals, set-pieces and creativity. Thanks to an impressive amount of practical effects, squibs and one particular late-game explosion (none of that overused CGI bullshit that so many studios now employ to cut costs), each duel, chase and standoff feels grounded in its intensity due to director Mike P. Nelson’s refusal to cut corners and do things the cheaply computer generated way. It’s great to see a filmmaker employ what are now, oddly enough, “old school” methods of movie-making, but it greatly aids in making THE DOMESTICS feel tangible. I know many might roll their eyes, but considering the limited budget (but magnitude of aspiration) it’s incredibly commendable—and I for one applaud Nelson for delivering the gory goods with realistic aplomb.
While the stars of this adventure really are the ever-escalating series of surreal villains, Nina (Bosworth) and Mark (Hoechlin) are a pair well worth rooting for. There a palpable discord between the two and such emotional strife lends all the more to the turbulence of their journey. During their excursion, the script is never dependent on one over the other, but each is given their moment to shine and fight for something—be it their partner, an innocent or themselves. The conflict of their relationship offers a human element to all of the barbarity and creates a plot thread by which one of THE DOMESTICS’ best subjects (Sonoya Mizuno) is utilized.
THE DOMESTICS is obvious in its influences and may not reinvent the wheel, but it sure as hell wraps it in bloody chains, lines it with bladed rims and sends it flaming down a hill paved with determined intention.
Written by Bryan Yentz