Roy Tucker, a Vietnam war veteran with excellent shooting skills, is serving a long prison sentence when a mysterious visitor promises him that he will be released if he agrees to carry out a dangerous assignment.
Gene Hackman infamously took the lead role in this leaden political thriller for the paycheck, turning down such unseen arthouse fare as "Jaws," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," and "Apocalypse Now." Hackman is Tucker, a Vietnam veteran serving time in San Quentin with his cellmate and buddy Spiventa (Mickey Rooney, gunning for a Supporting Actor Oscar nod that he did not get). Tucker is approached by the mysterious Tagge (Richard Widmark), who offers to spring Tucker out of jail if he will simply follow a few orders, and eventually kill a man in cold blood. Tucker's first concern is for his wife Ellie (Candice Bergen, who pops up halfway through the film in an atrocious wig). Tucker gets involved in what would today be described as "the deep state," who always seem to be a step ahead of him in order to get him to do their bidding. Of course, as with any mediocre political thriller, Tucker doesn't play by their rules. While Hackman is one of my favorite actors, this film is not up to par. The name cast is fine, look for Eli Wallach, Edward Albert, Jay Novello, and Majel Barrett in support, but Adam Kennedy's story is dull. Based on his novel, the film makers try to get us to care about Tucker and Ellie's original crime that got the both of them locked up. The screenplay can't generate any suspense or paranoia, instead we get endless scenes of Hackman wandering around and looking over his shoulder a lot. The viewer is kept in the dark as much as Tucker is, so once Tucker receives his "assignment," I really didn't care. There's a twist about the assassination that completely invalidates the film's plot, rendering the hour and forty minutes a waste of time. Director Stanley Kramer has done some classic films, but he stumbles here; what should have been some glorious action set pieces are mishandled. "The Domino Principle" tries to squeeze itself into a crowded genre that included "The Parallax View," "The Eiger Sanction," "The Odessa File," and other similarly titled films. Too bad the film makers seem as interested in the proceedings as we are. (* *) out of five stars. Rated (R), and contains physical violence, gun violence, some gore, profanity, some sexual references, alcohol and tobacco use