‘Domino: Battle of the Bones’ Review: Juicing Up the Game

In the comedy “Domino: Battle of the Bones,” the sports heroes of Compton, Calif., aren’t Lakers, Clippers, Sparks, Kings or Angels. Here, the stars of the neighborhood are bones players — a game better known as dominoes. Their championship comes with a plastic trophy and a $10,000 grand prize. The movie has a tall task to make dominoes seem action-packed, and it overcompensates by stacking its hand with over-the-top theatrics.

At the center of the circus is Gerald (Lou Beatty Jr.), a foul-mouthed old-timer who plans to cheat his way to the world championship domino title with the help of his prodigy step-grandson, Andy (Nathan Dana). Gerald’s longtime rival is Tenspeed (Anthony McKinley), a roller-skating, cocaine-snorting bones master. Goth Camila (Valeria Vallejos) wants to prove her domino acumen to her family of domineering, domino-playing misogynists. The championship is hosted by the jittery, check-bouncing nebbish Walter (David Arquette). The film’s director, the former professional basketball player Baron Davis, even makes a cameo as a knife-wielding pastor who rents event space to Walter.

With its deep ensemble, the movie doesn’t want for colorful characters, and Davis keeps his cast loose, unvarnished and unleashed. But the movie lacks focus when it moves between its larger-than-life plotlines. Rather than building momentum, the editing tends to favor a highlight reel approach. Each scene cuts straight to chaos, only to zip away to a new character in a new conundrum as soon as the last fracas has wrapped. The film’s tendency toward thrill-seeking makes for a viewing experience that is narratively scattershot. Each character shows flashes of potential, but the movie lacks the long game to tie the team together.

Domino: Battle of the Bones
Rated R for drug use, sexual references, brief violence and language. Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes. In theaters.

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