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Domino is not nearly as good as it wants to be.

Visually, director Tony Scott weaves an assault to the senses, channeling the worst of Oliver Stone and Guy Ritchie, think U-Turn, Natural Born Killers and Snatch rolled together into an aesthetic train wreck of epic proportions. However, Domino manages to be more than any of those three films combined, and it has its screenplay to thank.

Richard Kelly, the wunderkind most commonly referred to in relation to his directorial debut, Donnie Darko, has crafted a script that should, by all intents and purposes, play out in the typical biopic fashion, with one catch: it doesn’t. See, Kelly is too smart for that, and it would seem that he realizes the futile nature of biographical films better than the studios intended to capitalize from them, and he poses this in a simple question.

Who was Domino Harvey?

The answer is simple in that no one really, truly, knows who anyone is. Yes, its amazingly existential, and actually downright cynical, but in the end, it is the truth in regards to the subject at hand. Sure, anyone that has read the gossip columns and rumor mills has read a variation of the same story regarding the model turned bounty hunter.

Kelly’s screenplay uses this as its jumping off platform and entry point into Domino’s problematic and chaotic life, but it quickly jumps the rails, using fiction to contrast what could be fact with what is absurd and impossible, yet ultimately entertaining.

What destroys all of this from succeeding is Tony Scott’s apparent need to enunciate each note with hyper stylized celluloidal ejaculation. Every saturated color filter, grain enhancement, and flash cut editing tactic is employed here, ad nauseam, and it succeeds only in overstating every beat along the way.

The film is framed with an interrogation between Domino Harvey (Keira Knightley) and an FBI agent named Taryn Miles (Lucy Liu). Through this interrogation, we learn of events leading up to Domino’s crucial career choice, and ultimately to a job so fiendishly full of double-crosses and entanglements that she wound up on the verge of a lengthy prison sentence.

Or so we think.

The story is told in disjointed flashbacks, detailing moments in Harvey’s past ranging from her mothe'rs decisions to place her in boarding school and force her into life in Beverly Hills. Both of these incidences, coupled with the death of her father, forced Harvey to build an emotional shell used to protect her from feeling anything near bonding with anyone at all.

It’s only natural that she turn to a life of violence after rejecting a life as a model, depicted quickly with a sequence of her strutting down the runway next to an overlaid title card reading “I am bored” right before pummeling another model with a flurry of punches.

She joins up with a band of merry bounty hunters named Ed (Mickey Rourke) and Choco (Edgar Ramirez) and immediately is thrust into a life of hunting humans for a living, often at risk of gunfire and standoffs against South Central L.A. gang bangers. Just such a situation calls for quick thinking, and Domino proves her mettle by handling the situation with a lap dance.

In the end, we wind up with a pair of outrageous cameos in Brian Austin Green and Ian Ziering, both playing themselves, a visit to the Jerry Springer Show, a heist involving the mob and a Las Vegas casino owner (Dabney Coleman), and a drug induced appearance by an angelic Tom Waits.

The finished film is a mess and the ending is especially reminiscent of Scott’s own True Romance, a film whose visual style managed to dance delicately around the screenplay by Quentin Tarantino, who had yet to make a name for himself in the industry at the time of the films production. Unfortunately, Scott chose to outshine his writer with Domino, and the results are catastrophic.


Derek McCaw

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