Tricky business, making a post-apocalyptic genre movie when you’re not blessed with a Roland Emmerich / Michael Bay-sized Hollywood mega-budget. Fortunately our more inspired and creative visionaries are willing and able to rise to the challenge and cut their cinematic suit according to their financial cloth. The end of the world needn’t always be about massive explosions, crowds of screaming extras and general scenes of terror and devastation. Mike P Nelson’s gripping, grounded and quietly impressive debut feature The Domestics is commensurately light on spectacle (for a change) and high on concept, delivering a grim and gritty world-gone-mad tale whose roots are buried deep in the strange socio-political landscape of contemporary America. Geostorm this ain’t…
Society has been brought to its knees – for reasons never fully explained – thanks to the world’s governments culling vast swathes of the planet’s population by sending fleets of jet planes to dump a poisonous lethal black gas which kills almost immediately. There are survivors, of course, those who are immune to the gas – but the new world order is a vicious, dog-eat-dog place and America has disintegrated into a country divided into self-serving gangs with names like the Sheets (they wear... well... white sheets), metal-clad Nailers, Mad Max-like Plowboys and the chance-crazed Gamblers. Ordinary folk who demonstrate no allegiance to any particular tribe are referred to dismissively as “domestics”. Troubled young couple Mark and Nina (Hoechlin and Bosworth) are classic domestics on the verge of splitting up at the time of the collapse but who grudgingly stay together to travel from Minneapolis to Milwaukee where Nina’s parents have also survived, living a life of relative normality in a community largely untouched by the disaster. Inevitably it’s far from an uneventful road trip as the couple discover the true horrors of humanity in times of crisis, and their often-brutal encounters with the disparate groups form the backbone of a movie that paints an uncomfortable picture of a fractured world not entirely dissimilar to the one we’re living in right here, right now.
The Domestics doesn’t really take us anywhere we haven’t gone before, but Nelson tells his lean and blunt story with some style. His often-ugly characters (and, it has to be said, the rather bland lead pair) populate a bruised, lawless landscape where life is cheap and meaningless, and the only common currency is violence - and be warned, the violence is pretty unflinching and uncompromising.
Visually arresting and commendably downbeat, The Domestics could perhaps have benefited from sharpening its satirical edge rather than losing its way in the last reel as it stumbles into a rather generic Walking Dead style shoot-out, but it remains a haunting and uncomfortable parable for our times. You’ll have to make an effort to find it in amongst the impossible missions and miniature marvels currently crowding out the multiplex, but it’s an effort that will reward you with a film which at least tries to do something a little bit different.
THE DOMESTICS / DIRECTOR: MIKE P NELSON / SCREENPLAY: MIKE P NELSON / STARRING: TYLER HOECHLIN, KATE BOSWORTH, DAVID DASTMASCHIAN, LANCE REDDICK, DANA GOURRIER / CERT: 18 / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW