2005Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramierez
ertainly, there's an excellent movie to be made out of the compelling, fantastical life of privileged Hollywood daughter/runway model/bounty hunter Domino Harvey; something beautiful, poignant, and tragic. Tony Scott's staggeringly awful abortion of an alleged biopic is not this film. Hell, it barely even qualifies to be called a film at all, so emphatically does it insist, in each needlessly crazed, seizure-inducing frame of its interminable run time, on its almost complete unwatchability.
I've sat through my share of long, tedious and unfathomably unhinged films, but nothing has ever quite tried my patience in the manner of Domino. It possesses a strange breed of hysterical monotony, a relentless sensationalism that is soporifically dulling, born precisely out of its pathologically enthusiastic attempts to be neither monotonous nor dull. Scott is like a ADD-riddled kid let lose in the gimmick factory. Unable to keep his camera still for even a second, and then seemingly further unable to edit any single take to run longer than, say, twenty seconds, each shot is blurred, smeared, oversaturated, undersaturated, underexposed, overexposed, shaky, grainy, drenched through harsh filters, and completely bled of any color. And then this whole inchoate clusterfuck of scenes is strung and jammed together, piled on top of each other, shuffled and reshuffled and finally unspooled into a frantic, confusing, and queasy disaster of a "film".
I'm sure it's all meant to convey how frantic, confusing, dangerous, exciting, and messy the life of a supermodel bounty hunter must be. But really, it just made me somewhat nauseous, and then, despite all the racket, a bit sleepy and quite in need of a pot of coffee to slog my way through to the end. A late third act mescaline trip by our merry band of bounty hunters bluntly reinforces what Scott is after here, if it wasn't already plainly obvious: Watching Domino is more like watching someone in the throes of a mesc trip, rather than actually experiencing one. Not the least bit fun, but a bit sad, and just flat-out boring.
So, yeah, good luck trying to assemble a coherent narrative out of the rubble. Opening with the portentously hip title card "based on a true story…sort of,” Scott eschews any real attempt to mine the sundry fascinating possibilities afforded by the story of a Hollywood rich girl willfully entering into this most improbable of career choices. The film portrays Harvey, instead, as some sort of overheated male adolescent comic book fantasy, a girl who wouldn't be out of place in a Luc Besson film, all skimpy outfits and big guns and whatnot. The script basically does little else but careen from one hysterical stand-off to another, though screenwriter Richard Kelley (losing almost all the good will he's garnered from Donnie Darko) tries to cloak his insipidly weak narrative with a confounding melange of flash forwards, flashbacks, framing devices, contradictory voiceovers, and replayed scenes.
The nominal impetus of all the hullabaloo seems to be a heist gone wrong, the money from which was supposed to help some little kid get an operation for some unnamed horrific disease. Oh, and then there's the reality TV crew that trails Harvey and her posse around, just to add that extra and totally unnecessary meta-level of reflexivity and media/fame critique for good measure. From this point on, as the bullets fly, camera trailers explode, helicopters swoop around casino rooftops, 90210 cast members get punched in the face, and gangsters and criminals are blasted to pieces in slow motion, Domino ceases to be even a marginal approximation of its titular heroine's life. It’s an insulting grotesquerie, almost a parody of every bad post-Tarantino attempt at cool that's come down the pike in the past 12 years.
Then I started to wonder if maybe Scott's overload of stylistic embellishments is somehow all a cover for this laughable abomination of a script. Maybe he's trying to divert our attention from the story with all this fuss and flash; instead of destroying the film, maybe his trickery is the only thing saving it from the slag heap. But, alas. no, I think that might be giving him too much credit in this case. Scott has been a credible director in the past, as evinced by the near-brilliant True Romance, but of late (see the especially loathsome Man on Fire) his films have been prone to just the sort of needlessly idiotic excess he allows free reign to here. He is becoming a more puerile and adolescent director as he ages, caving in fully to the short attention-span, MTV/advertisement-damaged style that he earlier served to spawn.
The truly confounding thing about Domino is that, for Scott, this project was a twelve-year labor of love. You'd think he'd be concerned with the story above all else. He met Harvey in the early 90s, and the film had been in the works for years, with her blessing. With all that time, he should have been able to get it right. I'm sure Scott had the best of intentions going in. He seems simply to have fallen prey to wanting to do too much with it, and consequently drained the film of any vestiges of humanity, replacing Harvey's story with a one-dimensional cartoon. The only true hint of genuine human emotion anywhere in the film comes in the final shot, as the credits roll: the real Domino Harvey makes a brief appearance, followed by a title card dedicating the film to her with the dates 1969-2005. Harvey, whose final years were spent battling drug addiction, and who died unexpectedly in the summer of 2005, never got to see what a celluloid travesty was made of her life. She never got a chance to get the final word, or at least set the record straight. Her cameo is probably meant to cast all what you’ve just endured in an elegiac light, but it comes across as the final, and perhaps most insulting, of Domino's crimes.
Domino is out now on DVD.
By: Jake Meaney
Published on: 2006-05-05