The game of Dominoes has been around since the second century A.D. but has struggled to make waves in modern societies as it had in the past. However, in Compton, Gerald (Lou Beatty Jr.) has practiced the game for years and helped keep it alive. With the World Domino Championship, led by Walter (David Arquette), coming to town, Gerald and the locals will have the opportunity to prove their worth in a nearly 2000-year-old game. But he is stuck looking after his new step-grandchild, Andy (Nathan Dana); little does Gerald know that Andy has a few domino-related tricks up his sleeve.
Throughout the absurdity that is Domino: Battle of the Bones nothing is off-limits. The screenplay by Pamela Azmi-Andrew, Baron Davis, and Carl Reid rips apart race, mental illness, and sexuality at the seams and flips them on their heads, meaning that the film is not meant for everyone. The Black Lives Matter movement is made fun of, women are told that they cannot compete with men, and gentrification is meant to seem like a good thing. While the idea of these things may irritate the masses, the delivery of each joke is perfect; at least throughout the first half. Co-directors Baron Davis, Carl Reid, and Steven V. Vasquez Jr. come in hot and attract viewers early on, but by the second act the comedy subsides and the allure of the film vanished along with it.
As the film appears to lose its balance, real, gritty emotion swoops in at the last minute to restabilize everything. While humor, even if it had survived from beginning to end, helps to entertain, being able to make an emotional connection is what keeps audiences engaged throughout any given story. The directors deliver in this regard and ultimately save the film that began so strong but halfway through began teetering on its last legs.
“With the World Domino Championship…coming to town, Gerald and the locals will have the opportunity to prove their worth…”
What’s most impressive about Domino: Battle of the Bones is the chemistry between Beatty Jr. and Dana, individuals at polar opposite ends of life. On the surface, there is no way that the two should hit it off the way in which they do, but the actors feed wonderfully off of one another and help bring the best out in each other. However, as wonderful a connection as these two individuals are able to forge in the early going, the film slowly drifts away from their brilliance and begin to focus on a slew of other, far less appealing, characters.
This leads to the drudgery throughout most of the second act. In many ways the film is a roller coaster and that doesn’t play in its favor. The filmmakers start the film out strong with compelling characters and amusing comedic moments but fail to sustain that level of entertainment throughout.
Domino: Battle of the Bones is a bit quirky, utterly ridiculous, and intentionally offensive to just about everyone who watches. However, these aspects work in the film’s favor and reward the cast and crew with mild success. The bookends of the film hold the story together, but the uneventful and rather unappealing center of the film tries terribly hard to destroy Davis, Vasquez Jr., and Reid’s brainchild.
"…a bit quirky, utterly ridiculous, and intentionally offensive..."