Movie Review: The Road Meets The Warriors in ‘The Domestics’
A suburban couple must brave the post-apocalyptic, gang-infested roads from Minneapolis to Milwaukee in The Domestics, a new feature from classic 80s production house Orion Pictures and the first film released under the Orion Classics label in nearly 20 years.
The result is a derivative but not-uninteresting piece of post-apocalyptic Americana that borrows familiar tropes from The Road and The Walking Dead, among numerous others. But The Domestics keeps things surprisingly light and fast-paced enough to maintain more than a passing interest.
And there’s one standout element throughout The Domestics: colorful comic book gangs that dot the landscape and feel like they were lifted from the Walter Hill classic The Warriors. White-sheeted Ghosts, metal-masked Nailers, truck-driving Plowboys, and others all feel like they’re more interested in following a visual theme than surviving the wastes.
A brief opening intro clues us in to what went down: global leaders decided to start an apocalypse, for some reason, and send out fleets of jets to spill chemtrails of a deadly black mist poison to wipe out the population.
Bad news for most of humanity, but on-the-outs suburban Minneapolis couple Mark (Tyler Hoechlin) and Nina West (Kate Bosworth) fortunately happen to be immune to the poison. As do the Milwaukee-based in-laws, who they communicate with over CB radio.
But when her parents stop answering her calls, Nina decides she needs to make the trip to get to them. And to save his marriage, Mark agrees to take her on the perilous journey through backwoods roads in rural Wisconsin, with supply and rest stops at abandoned supermarkets and deserted homes along the way.
Unfortunately, that also brings them into contact with the murderous gangs who now patrol the post-apocalyptic wasteland. Most of them are the usual cut-rate psychos, but there are also the Gamblers, who enjoy pitting their victims against each other in Russian Roulette, and the benevolent Cherries, who are out to protect innocent women including our heroine.
There’s even a friendly face or two in the midst of all the other assorted crazies, and Lance Reddick plays a genial father of two whose wife makes a mean stew. David Dastmalchian, on the other hand, shows up as a film-obsessed lunatic who references A Clockwork Orange and Eyes Without a Face.
It’s hard to build up much interest in the protagonists amid the colorful spectacle that surrounds them - especially Hoechlin’s hopelessly bland hubby - but their journey is fast-paced and eventful enough to keep us watching. After a choppy start that drops us into this narrative without much world-building, The Domestics settles into a decent groove about halfway through.
The Domestics is the solo feature debut of writer-director Mike P. Nelson, who shows some real visual flair during the action sequences and fills the screen with amusing sets and costumes and practical effects work. This isn’t high art, but The Domestics is trashy fun that delivers on its premise and is a great deal better than James Franco’s recent similarly-themed Future World.
And it’s great to see that Orion Pictures logo open the movie, too.