DOMINO directed by Tony Scott, written by Steve Barancik and Richard Kelly, with Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez and Lucy Liu. 128 min. An Alliance Atlantis release. Opens Friday (October 14). For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Domino tries to be two movies at once and succeeds at being neither.
The first is a biopic of Domino Harvey, who traded a pampered life for the grime and violence of the bounty hunter's trade. The second is a caper that involves an armoured car heist, framed mafia brats and the FBI.
A quick search on Wikipedia turns up a number of stories about the real Domino Harvey. Daughter of actor Laurence Harvey, who died when she was four, she spent her childhood practising martial arts and getting tossed out of various boarding schools.
She was, by all accounts, an angry woman, fond of guns and drugs, who spent three years as a bounty hunter, beginning when she was 20. On June 27, 2005, facing meth-trafficking charges, she was found dead of an accidental fenantyl overdose.
The problem is that director Tony Scott and writers Richard Kelly (Donny Darko) and Steve Barancik (The Last Seduction) care about the legend, not the facts. They push her modelling which, most agree, did not exist and focus on the violence she experienced as a child. They attribute her rage to missing her father and bring cheap sentimental closure to her life's conflict with a mescaline-fuelled vision and an "I love you" to Mom.
From The Hunger (1983) through Top Gun (1986) to Man On Fire (2004), Scott has always been more interested in flash than substance. Here he's in hog heaven. The whole story is presented out of sequence, and everything is shot like a music video, with pounding hiphop and rock that assures us we're just here for the thrill ride.
Even the dialogue scenes are shot in a mix of film and high-def video, using jagged cutting and other obvious tricks. This works for the action, which features some unusual set pieces and lots of energy, but gets tiresome well before the end.
Scott needs his out-of-sequence structure to keep the story moving. Domino narrates the film, supposedly giving a first-person account of what she knows about the armoured car job to an FBI agent (Lucy Liu at her iciest). But whenever he needs to Scott cheats, for example, by letting Domino spout irrelevancies and material she couldn't possibly know .
The film's best and funniest scene, a Jerry Springer episode in which one of the characters unveils her new racial classification system "blacktina," "Japanic" has nothing to do with anything, but it kicks the movie into much-needed overdrive.
The introduction of a reality-TV crew pushes things a bit further, and for a while Domino looks like a satire. But these elements simply peter out and we're back to the action.
Keira Knightley is good eye candy and tries very hard, but she doesn't convey the level of rage and sleaze that the camera and art direction are trying to evoke at every moment.
Mickey Rourke and Edgar Ramirez as her boss and co-worker do. They're utterly convincing as total slimeballs. So is Christopher Walken as a venal TV producer.