by Mel Valentin
She smokes freely, curses unselfconsciously, participates in (and often instigates) gratuitous violence, fetishizes guns, favors heavy mascara, and has the face (and body) of a fashion model. She’s Domino Harvey (Keira Knightly), the title character in Tony Scott’s latest action/adventure/comedy film to saturate multiplexes (following last year’s revenge actioner, "Man on Fire"). With Tony ("Top Gun," "True Romance," "Crimson Tide") Scott’s name attached to the film, ultra-slick, empty visuals and masochistic, consequence-free, ultra-violence perpetrated by amoral, anti-authoritarian characters can’t be far behind. Not surprisingly, they’re not. What is surprising is the disappointing end result, which took ten years to bring to the screen.The “real” Domino Harvey spent three years as tracking down wanted fugitives from justice in South Los Angeles (one of the roughest areas of L.A.). Part of Tony Scott’s interest in making a film centered on Domino derives partly from her gender and partly from her family name. Domino Harvey was the daughter of late British actor Laurence Harvey. Harvey, in turn, is generally familiar to American audiences through his role as Angela Lansbury’s repressed, tortured son in John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate. Harvey died when Domino was only four. Despite a privileged upbringing, Domino led an unstable, unhappy life (she was kicked out of four boarding schools). After seeing an ad for a $300-dollar, two-week training course), Domino became a “bail recovery agent” in Los Angeles. Domino died of a drug overdose this past June, depressed over federal charges for drug trafficking that carried stiff penalties and, controversially, over her depiction in Scott’s film.
"Tony Scott: please hand in your Director's Guild card immediately."
In Tony Scott’s over-amped, heavily fictionalized version of Domino’s life, Domino’s haphazard career path (and life) takes her from fashion model, to sorority girl with an attitude, to successful bounty hunter (thanks to martial arts training and a gun fetish), and to co-hosting a traveling reality show. The reality show is the brainchild of a Warner Brothers network producer, Mark Heiss (Christopher Walken, wasted, as usual). Domino operates as part of a team of bounty hunters, led by Ed Moseby (Mickey Rourke, continuing his career resurgence) and Choco (Edgar Ramirez). Both men work on the right side of the law only because it’s more consistently profitable than the alternative (Ed and Choco are ex-felons, prone to anger and easy to violence). Like Domino, Ed and Choco are adrenaline junkies. The team works for the king of bail bondsmen, Claremont Williams III (Delroy Lindo), who pays them a fee for each fugitive they capture.
The main plot turns on an armored car heist, $10 million dollars in stolen cash from a Las Vegas casino, and the involvement of the mafia, a Las Vegas casino owner, the thieves (who masquerade as former First Ladies), and the bounty hunters hired to track down the thieves and recover the stolen money for the casino (for a percentage, of course). All this happens just as the reality show gets underway. Two actors/celebrities from a once popular television series are added to the team, along with a camera crew and Mark Heiss, who trail along in a souped-up Winnebago. The actors/celebrities are added to the storyline for no apparent reason except for a handful of crude jokes, often at their expense. Anyone even tangentially familiar with Scott's repeated forays into the action/crime genre over the last twenty years (e.g., Beverly Hills Cop II, The Last Boy Scout, True Romance]) can easily predict the next two or three plot turns.
Scott and his scriptwriter, Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko), attempt to cover Domino's shortcomings by needlessly shifting the story forward, backward, then forward again in time (all the while hoping the audience keeps up with the multiple reversals and complications), opening with a battered, bloodied, but unbowed, Domino being interviewed by an icy, obsessive FBI behaviorist, Taryn Miles (Lucy Liu). The wraparound interview scenes allow Domino to narrate her way through the film (and the audience), from the romanticized loss of her father to the tangled series of events that led to Domino’s present confinement. The interview overlaps with frequent, repetitive, often intrusive voice narration delivered by Domino, often used to explain events we've just seen. All that voice over narration, however, offers little in the way of giving Domino any character development or depth.The problems don't stop there, however. Besides Scott's hyperactive camerawork and overactive editing (both to be expected), Scott and Kelly include superfluous characters, unnecessary subplots, and one or two unrelated episodes (e.g. a "Jerry Springer" segment that functions as a hilarious, inspired skit on the absurdities of racial classifications) that add nothing to the overarching storyline. "Domino" is also riddled with plot holes, including at least one head-scratching decision by the FBI in the third act (it bears no connection to how the FBI would actually behave in the real world). Last, the complications in the armored heist plot are excessively convoluted for a presumably mass-market action/crime/comedy film (even after Domino's repeated attempts at helpful explanation via voice over). In short, Scott and Kelly fail to deliver anything approaching a coherent or compelling film.
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originally posted: 12/04/05 16:58:42