domino-332-713222Domino Harvey, who died in 2005 at age 34, was a model and the daughter of actor Laurence Harvey. Her rootless early life left her with a lot of aggression, which found focus in her second career as a bounty hunter. The director Tony Scott was a friend of hers, and he’s made much in the press about how his film Domino is a tribute to her memory. That’d be nice if it were true, but the only thing Domino pays homage to — or shows affection for — is Scott’s heavy hand in the editing room. Sure to be regarded as excruciating by some and electrifying by others, the movie is run through so many filters, film stocks, and Avid whiz-bang it makes Natural Born Killers look like Barry Lyndon.

I usually loathe such hyperactive lab experiments; Oliver Stone, in Natural Born Killers, at least incorporated the scattershot style into his message about how the media fractures us all, and he used it in an emotionally direct (if bullying) way that kept us subliminally connected to the characters. Tony Scott doesn’t do anything like that in Domino — there’s no real thematic reason for the movie to look or act the way it does; it’s just a gimmick. That said, I didn’t mind it much. Domino has been lambasted all over the place, but it’s not that bad; it leaves us as exhausted as its heroine (Keira Knightley), but much of the ride is amusing.

“Based on a true story — sort of,” the ads qualify. Well, Domino is a movie — sort of. It’s like an entire season of a nonexistent Domino TV series telescoped frantically into two hours and five minutes of highlights, with all the plot convolutions that implies. Essentially, it’s a string of double-crosses and triple-crosses in which Domino and her partners — hard-bitten beef jerky Ed Mosbey (Mickey Rourke) and sensitive ex-con Choco (Edgar Ramirez) — attempt to locate $10 million so that their cut of the take can pay for a young girl’s operation. I could try to explain the connection between Domino and the young girl, but it would be the most complicated sentence ever; it involves Delroy Lindo, Mo’Nique, the FBI, the Mafia, the Jerry Springer Show, and a reality show tailing Domino’s every move (directed from a trailer by Christopher Walken).

Dabney Coleman is in it. Brian Austin Green and Ian Ziering, veterans of Beverly Hills 90210, are in it as themselves — sort of. Tom Waits is in it — I kind of have to give this a “Worth a Look” rating for that alone. Domino is one insane gibbering beast, leagues more idiosyncratic than the average action flick, and I suppose part of this is due to the participation of screenwriter Richard Kelly, who wrote and directed 2001’s brilliantly confounding Donnie Darko. I enjoyed seeing Mickey Rourke and Christopher Walken share the screen again, though it’s nothing more dramatic than a “creative meeting” for the reality show. Keira Knightley poses and snarls fetchingly enough, but time will tell whether she can act or just attitudinize — in any event, Domino is written as a posturing and hollow collection of bad-grrl reflexes, so there’s nothing that even a seasoned and complex actress could’ve done that Knightley doesn’t do. Like the character herself, she’s needed only as a face, a voice, a body.

Domino is the sort of disreputable night out that I hesitate to recommend because it’s disreputable in the wrong ways — it exemplifies pretty much everything I despise about the direction movies are heading. But Tony Scott works in a spirit of caffeinated roughhouse fun. It probably gets at the tone of bounty-hunting work more effectively than a more sober-sided account of the actual Domino Harvey’s life could have. I have no idea if the film’s aggressively cluttered plot is based on anything real, but it’s structured as a bad-girl-makes-good parable with an Xtreme veneer. At the very end, we see the real woman herself, looking gaunt and tomboyish and almost shy, yet her eyes tell us more about the reality of her life than the preceding two hours have. Those eyes almost shame us for what we’ve been watching. I had a good time, though — sort of.

Explore posts in the same categories: action/adventure, biopic

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