Domino is exactly as advertised, and considering the annoying nature of its trailers that’s not a good thing. “I am a bounty hunter” declares Keira Knightley for the first of a dozen times at the movie’s opening. Keira, as Domino Harvey, narrates throughout the film, her voice inexplicably filtered to make it sound like she’s reporting the weather over a bad cell phone connection.
The film is written by Richard Kelly, writer and director of the fantastic, head-trip cult phenomenon Donnie Darko. He’s based his screenplay (sort of) on the true story of model turned bounty hunter named Domino Harvey, who died recently under what can only be considered mysterious circumstances. The movie uses her name and pieces of her persona to create a wildly fantastical tale, which, quite obviously, has absolutely no basis in reality.
Kelly’s script is best described as a hopeless mess of never ending exposition and random, completely unrelated side trips into useless minutia. On the surface the concept seems like a good one. There has to be a good story somewhere in the tale of a runway model willingly giving up a life of luxury and celebrity to scrounge around in the dirty, low paid life of a bounty hunter. It should’ve been a slam dunk. Why does she make this choice? What kind of person is she? Can we get a few cool scenes of a hot babe kicking serious ass? If Kelly’s trying to do more than pay lip service to any of that it’s incomprehensible, and director Tony Scott does his best to make it even worse.
We open on Domino’s latest bounty, no wait, we open on her as a little girl, whoops no we open on her first job, no scratch that she’s sitting in a jail cell being interrogated by Lucy Liu, hey here’s a fat woman and her little kid. The film jumps around like Scott has dropped massive amounts of acid, randomly leaping between time periods, flashing back and forth, repeating certain scenes for reasons that can only be explained as filler. It’s not all about Domino either, a lot of celluloid is spent watching women on Jerry Springer, for no other reason than that someone had written what they perceived as a terribly funny bit and was determined to use it, plot be damned. But most of the movie is setup, and in fact by my watch that accounts for a good ninety minutes of film. It’s endless, explanation after explanation setting up some sort of elaborate and utterly incomprehensible heist for Domino to get involved in, only she never does. The narration and the setup meanders on and on layering on detail after detail introducing pointless, insignificant character after pointless insignificant character. Eventually, the whole thing becomes so complex and stupid, that Scott starts using flow charts to try and explain what the hell’s going on. It doesn’t work. I still have no idea.
Domino is all explanation and no execution, some of it actually related to the story (if indeed there is one) and some of it having nothing at all to do with it. When something interesting does show up, Scott goes out of his way to obscure it behind crazy jump editing and wild color. The moments of the film that might have been worthwhile are all filmed like the part of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas where Johnny Depp does Mescaline. Weirdly enough, at one point all the characters actually do start downing Mescaline, but the film still looks much the same. Maybe they were on it all along.
How was the acting? I have no idea. The film is so disjointed, confusing, and pitifully lost that trying to figure out what any of these performers are bringing is a wasted endeavor. Mickey Rourke looks like he might be doing something cool with his performance as Domino’s hardened, bad ass bounty hunter employer; and Edgar Ramirez might be pulling off a good, psychotic Latin thing, but I couldn’t tell you for certain. What I do know is that I’ll claw off my ears if I have to sit through another second of Keira’s droning, endless narration.
Tony Scott has in the past proven himself a more than capable director, and his resume includes many good films like Top Gun, True Romance, The Last Boy Scout, Crimson Tide, and the underrated Will Smith thriller Enemy of the State. Richard Kelly’s script gave him almost nothing to work with, but Scott has taken a pile of dung and turned it into a mountain of shit. Domino isn’t just bad, it’s obnoxious, witless, and unbelievably convoluted. There’s a reason this movie has been leaping all over the release calendar. New Line didn’t know what to do with it. If it didn’t have Tony Scott’s name on it, and flavor of the month Keira Knightley’s bare bosoms briefly in it, there’s a good chance it would have never seen the light of day. Too bad, we’d have all been better for it.