Domino (2005)

Review

Domino

The opening text of Domino informs the viewer that the film is based on a true story ‘sort of.’ It should also inform the viewer that it makes sense, entertains, and maintains focus on its main character ‘sort of.’ What it does far more consistently is annoy, disappoint, and remind the viewer of far better films they could be spending their time watching.

The story, very loosely based on the exploits of female bounty hunter Domino Harvey (Keira Knightley), follows our heroine as she grows dissatisfied with her socialite upbringing and embraces the darker side of law enforcement. Her mentor on this journey is legendary bounty hunter Ed Mosbey (Mickey Rourke), assisted by pseudo-comic relief Choco (Edgar Ramirez). That she meets these gentlemen as they try to scam hundreds of dollars off of would-be bounty hunters (including herself) doesn’t dissuade her from trusting them with her new life.

The movie manages to concentrate on building an eggshell-thin character profile for Domino (father dies at an early age, mother dismisses her to a boarding school, trust issues ensue) for about an hour before it diverts onto one of many tangents, an Elmore Leonard-lite subplot involving fake ID’s and an armored car heist.

Screenwriter Richard Kelly (falling precipitously from Donnie Darko‘s heights) also throws in a reality TV crew to follow around the hunters. This addition, instead of providing an astute observation about our obsession with fame and violence, or even a few pointless laughs, instead gives Christopher Walken, as the show’s producer, an opportunity to yell at his monitor every time Domino and the boys do something outrageous.

Upping the irritation factor here is Tony Scott’s direction, which resembles nothing so much as a Nine Inch Nails video but with less coherence. At one point, the characters ingest mescaline and we’re meant to see the world through their drug-addled minds, But the camerawork has been so trippy thus far that we can’t really tell the difference.

Scott also develops the habit of repeating every other line of Domino’s narration to the point where it seems as if Jimmy Two Times from GoodFellas is doing the voiceover. The manipulation of footage in general makes it feel like we’re watching Domino: The Remix, instead of the original.

What we’re really watching, however, is the remix of far better films such as Natural Born Killers, from which Domino borrows style but not substance, and Scott’s own True Romance, from which the film gleans wacky fringe characters and situations, but none of the richness of dialogue or attention to detail.

Equally frustrating is the fact that the film ignores interesting aspects of the real Domino Harvey’s life. It completely omits her battle with drug addiction (which ultimately contributed to her recent death) and does a 180 on her sexuality, throwing in a pointless love affair with Choco and going so far as to have her accuse an interrogator of being a lesbian in an attempt to throw her. And, in spite of its gleeful attempt to incorporate every film and TV show known to man, it fails to even mention that Domino’s parents named her after a Bond girl.

If the makers of Domino intended to create a truthful retelling of the life of Domino Harvey, it would have probably produced a very compelling film. If they had intended to create a fun, blood-soaked romp loosely inspired by the idea of a debutante-turned-huntress, that too might have made for popcorn-munching amusement. Even a treatise on celebrity and gore meant to update Natural Born Killers might have validated their efforts. Instead they have produced an interminable waste of very many talented artists’ ability that, sadly, cannot be hunted down and imprisoned to collect a reward.

The DVD includes a commentary from Scott and pals, deleted scenes, a featurette that profiles (and shows) the real Domino Harvey, plus a featurette on the visual style (that is: yellow and annoying) of the film.

Whoa, Domino.