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9 reviews, 35 user ratings

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Domino (2005)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"A mess . . . but a hugely entertaining mess."
4 stars

“Domino” plays less like a movie and more like a multi-level Mexican standoff–not unlike the one that concludes the film–in which a large number of differing factions are vying for control. On one level, the standoff is between fiction, reality and a self-referential approach that constantly reminds the viewer that things may or may not be as they seem. On another level, there is the battle between a quirky screenwriter trying to do something decidedly off the beaten path, a stylish-but-empty director who likes treating every scene, no matter how unnecessary it may be–with an overwhelming visual approach and an eclectic group of actors all jockeying for position in an effort to come off as the weirdo character in a story filled with nothing but weirdos.

Based on a true story (“sort of,” as the opening credits sheepishly admit), the film stars Keira Knightley as Domino Harvey, the daughter of the late movie star Laurence Harvey (best known for his chilly and chilling work in “The Manchurian Candidate”). After relocating to L.A. with her style-obsessed mother (Jacqueline Bisset) after her father’s death, Domino struggles to find a niche for her wild and combative personality–her attempts at modeling and joining a college sorority both end in violent outbursts. Suddenly, she comes across an ad offering a training course in the art of bounty-hunting to be taught by grizzled veteran Ed (Mickey Rourke), ambitious newcomer Choco (Edgar Ramirez) and their shifty boss Claremont Williams (Delroy Lindo). The course is a scam–the trio collect the money up-front and slip out the window during a “coffee break”–and Domino catches them in their tracks before they can escape. She convinces them to hire her and immediately comes into her own by defusing a tense stand-off in a manner that, let us say, would be far more pleasant coming from Keira Knightley than it would be from Mickey Rourke.

Domino’s success in her newly-chosen field (she even receives a “Bounty Hunter of the Year” award), combined with her stunning looks and irresistible backstory, captures the imagination of a sleazy reality-television producer (the almost-inevitable Christopher Walken) who wants to design an entire “Cops”-like show around her, her cohorts and their adventures–all to be hosted by “90210" refugees Brian Austin Green and Ian Ziering Their first case with the cameras rolling involves the disappearance of over $10 million of money belonging to a casino magnate (Dabney Coleman) from an armored car owned by Claremont. Of course, there is more going on than meets the eye and before long, everything turns into a orgy of violence, explosions and double-crosses that involve our heroes, Claremont, the casino owner, mobsters, the FBI, a lot of mescaline, a character who may or may not be God (and who may as well be as he is played by Tom Waits), a severed arm, a desert sex scene straight out of “Zabriskie Point,” and a final firefight that even John Woo might find a bit excessive.

Despite the “based on a true story” tag, it is pretty evident right from the start that “Domino” has no actual bearing on reality aside from the simple fact that Laurence Harvey had a daughter who became a bounty hunter. (One hint: the film suggests that Laurence Harvey died in 1993 when he actually passed on 20 years earlier.) That is actually not an uninteresting peg to hang a movie on–who wouldn’t be interested in seeing what would drive someone with such a background to become Colt Seaver instead of Angelina Jolie?–but it doesn’t seem to be what screenwriter Richard Kelly (whose previous work, “Donnie Darko,” remains one of the biggest head-scratchers in recent years) wants to deal with. The trouble with the film is that I never got any idea what it was that he actually did want to write about. There are plenty of individual elements that I liked a lot but the film is cluttered with so many subplots (including a young relative of Claremont’s with a life-threatening bone disease), characters and complex narrative tricks (much of the story is told via all-knowing flashback by Domino to an FBI agent played by Lucy Liu) that it feels at times as if Domino herself is little more than a supporting character in her own story.

What does work, oddly enough, is the direction by Tony Scott. I say “oddly enough” because he has given us some of the most shrill, pointless and hateful exercises in blockbuster filmmaking to come out of Hollywood in the last couple of decades–to these eyes, he has given us one great movie (“True Romance”), one great scene (the infamous Susan Sarandon-Catherine Deneuve meeting-of-the-veins, among other body parts, in “The Hunger”) and more unpleasant and mind-rotting junk than any one person should be allowed to inflict (“Top Gun,” “Days of Thunder,” “Beverly Hills Cop 2,” “The Fan,” “Man on Fire” are among the works of his that will no doubt have long runs in the main multiplex in Hell). As he has in the past, Scott has chosen a wildly overstated visual style with which to tell his story–the camera is always whipping around, visual and audio tricks pop up in virtually every scene and if there is a camera shot that lasts longer than five seconds, I must have missed it. This is the kind of movie where the characters inadvertently take a load of mescaline but the visuals are already so overblown that you can hardly tell the difference. Normally, this kind of assaultive stylistic approach is the kind of thing that I hate but I found it to be fairly effective in “Domino” because for once, Scott has found a story that is so deranged and over-the-top that it feels like a proper match of subject and style.

I also liked a lot of the performances as well. Although Keira Knightley doesn’t get much of a chance to show the inner workings of Domino, she throws herself into the part with the proper level of reckless abandon and demonstrates that she can do more than be this decade’s pretty British “It Girl” (something which became even more obvious when I found myself watching her in this and the upcoming “Pride and Prejudice” back to back). The always-reliable Walken scores in a few scenes that seem to have been shoehorned in simply to add some Walken weirdness to the mix. Even “90210" refugees Ziering and Green are amusing playing parodies of themselves as one-time cocks-of-the-walk who haven’t quite gotten the message that their glory days are long past. Best of all, Mickey Rourke gets to build on his “Sin City” comeback with another primo role in order to display his always-compelling brand of sexy and seedy charm.

I am fully aware that “Domino” sounds like a recipe for disaster and I suspect that many of my colleagues are going to dismiss it as little more than two solid hours of sound and fury with less significance than usual. I can see where they are coming from and I suppose there is a part of me that would willingly agree with such an assessment. And yet, while the film is pretty much a mess from beginning to end, it at least has the grace to be an interesting mess–one that has “cult film” written all over it.. Whether you love it or hate it (and this is one of those films where there is no middle ground), you definitely won’t walk away from “Domino” complaining that it is just more of the same.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13168&reviewer=389
originally posted: 10/13/05 23:48:16
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell spastic filmaking gave me headache 1 stars
8/28/09 Julian Just AWFUL and Knightley lived up to her crap acting fame as usual 1 stars
7/18/08 mike so bored I took a 2 hour nap while watching 1 stars
8/02/07 fools♫gold Richard Kelly and Tom Waits (and 2 Live Crew, if I remember right)... butIwas disappointed. 4 stars
5/26/07 Steve Newman Keira - what a body - average, would have been crappy without her body!!! 3 stars
5/12/07 The Grinch Guess which one of the Scotts got the talent for storytelling. 2 stars
3/19/07 Brian Mckay more spastic, craptastic directing from Tony Scott. Good thing his brother is Ridley 2 stars
2/26/07 Jason Is Tony Scott an ADHD sufferer on crack? 1 stars
1/12/07 Tiffany great movie. Loved Keira knightley. She is great. 5 stars
11/15/06 David Pollastrini keira knightley is hot! 4 stars
9/19/06 PD Pseudo-stylish film whose charicatures are just waaaay to "cool". 2 stars
8/04/06 Agent Sands The most entertaining piece of shit I've ever seen. 4 stars
6/08/06 San Lamar at least lucy liu looked good 2 stars
6/05/06 ad guess I expected much less. It's enjoyable and the cast is good 4 stars
4/13/06 bizenya it's a shame knightley's good performance in this will never be acknowledged 4 stars
4/03/06 Indrid Cold There's a little bit of substance to go with the ridiculous overload of style. 3 stars
3/13/06 elaine I wish they would have told the true story wthout trying to be a pulp fiction wanna be! 2 stars
3/09/06 burton miller choppy, random, goofy - could have been good 2 stars
3/02/06 Tanya awful, very unrealistic 2 stars
2/23/06 ES Got some chills and thrills, maybe re-watchable in a few years 4 stars
2/22/06 Jeff Anderson Not great, but it's daring, ambitious & one wild ride to say the least. Cast is first-rate! 4 stars
2/20/06 Agent Sands Incredibly flawed, uneven, and shoddy, but fuck if I wasn't thoroughly entertained. 4 stars
2/19/06 Perry Mason Tony Scott just gave me a very bad headache with this movie. Keira is good though. 2 stars
12/10/05 anka ... 5 stars
11/30/05 louis adcock excellent, one of the best films ever 5 stars
10/26/05 deadwiz Interesting and complex story. good action, but forgetable. 4 stars
10/22/05 jeff fun movie, keira hmmmm. 5 stars
10/20/05 John a great cast in one of the worst movies in recent memory 1 stars
10/19/05 asina good performances, bad directing. 4 stars
10/19/05 odditie Love you Scott, your movies rule 5 stars
10/19/05 Bob Bourgeois One hell of an interesting story even it was only half true. One you'll remember. 5 stars
10/17/05 jcjs Tony's fun style, great acting, wonderfully entertaining, splendid music, not for knitpick 5 stars
10/16/05 Agent Sands Despite the endless amount of major problems, I can't say I didn't enjoy every frame. 4 stars
10/13/05 bizenya could have been great, but has too much glitter and flash. knightley better than expected 4 stars
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  14-Oct-2005 (R)
  DVD: 21-Feb-2006



Directed by
  Tony Scott

Written by
  Richard Kelly

  Keira Knightley
  Mickey Rourke
  Lucy Liu
  Delroy Lindo
  Christopher Walken
  Mena Suvari

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