Movie Information

Genre: Ersatz Biopic
Director: Tony Scott
Starring: Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez, Delroy Lindo, Lucy Liu
Rated: R

About a week ago, I changed the water in my aquarium. What a fool I was! I realize now I could have sold the thing to Tony Scott to shoot his next movie through. At least, I could have if he plans on making his next film look anything like Domino, which appears to have been lensed through a thick film of algae.

This isn’t very surprising, since his last opus, Man on Fire, boasted a similar appearance, but was, if anything, an even more loathsome piece of cinema. I’m not sure why Scott feels compelled to shoot these films in deliberately repellent colors and load them down with pointlessly jumbled cutting and shaky camerawork. I suspect it’s an ill-advised attempt by the director of Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop and Days of Thunder to attain some kind of artistic credibility with critics. It ain’t working.

This isn’t a case of style-over-substance; Scott’s is merely grafted-on style instead of substance. And considering the fact that the look and the strobe-like flashes in the editing are all pretty obviously done via computer in post-production, it’s all the more grafted on.

The only thing that keeps this fraudulent biopic from being as bad as Man on Fire is that it at least doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a trash movie. Unless you factor in some absurd nonsense about mother love and saving a child’s life that gets dragged in by the scruff of the neck late in the film, Domino is just a hipper-than-thou exercise in gratuitous violence.

In fact, if this movie were even half as hip as it thinks, it’d die from an overdose of coolness.

Domino aspires to the kind of trash-masterpiece status that Tarantino achieved with the two halves of Kill Bill, but the best it manages is to be a seriously ugly, fitfully amusing mess. Ironically, the most amusing thing about the film comes from Scott’s making the entire movie in this pseudo-hallucinatory LSD-chrome approach, but then being completely up a stump when the proceedings call for him to create an hallucinatory scene where our anti-heroes are dosed with mescaline. What does he do? Nothing. This part of the film looks just like the rest, except that it brings on Tom Waits as “The Wanderer,” a sort of desert prophet-ex-machina, who appears to have wandered in from one of Oliver Stone’s more fevered excesses.

As a story … well, yes, there really was a Domino Harvety. She really was the daughter of Laurence Harvey (who died when Domino was 3, not 8, as the film has it). She really was a bounty hunter. She was also an out-lesbian, which the film never gets near. But then, with its “based on a true story … sort of” opening, Domino admits its passing relationship with truth.

So it’s probably unfair to carp about any departures from reality, but it’s certainly reasonable to complain that what replaces reality isn’t very good or compelling. It’s equally fair to note that Keira Knightley, who plays Domino, simply can’t carry a film and looks even less impressive next to Mickey Rourke’s laidback cool and Christopher Walken’s manic energy. And no amount of algae-coated, peripatetic camera work is going to change that. Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, sexual content/nudity and drug use.

– reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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