I have to hand it to director Tony Scott. Not everyone can do what he did with Domino. Scott takes a frenetic, over-processed style and is able to run with it for over two hours. Grainy photography. Overlaid images. Slow-mo and freeze frames. Hyper edits, zooms, washed out visuals -- it's like watching a television that went into permanent music video mode, then decided to go berserk.
And although it sounds as if this was designed to give you a major headache, its consistency seems rather admirable. Frankly, if Scott's approach doesn't end up annoying you, you can actually enjoy the way it keeps up the movie's pace. It serves an important function in this way -- the technical skill and dedication of Domino's presentation becomes its highest point of interest. Even if there's nothing else to process, at least there's always something to see.
If what I'm saying implies Domino is lacking in the content department, I can clarify by stating that the movie does have an interesting subject, but doesn't really have much to say about it. This is the story of Domino Harvey, the (sadly, recently) late daughter of actor Laurence Harvey who took the unlikely career path from being a model to being a bounty hunter. She must have granted the filmmakers full liberty in telling her story because the movie itself admits in a humorous, offhanded way that it barely sticks to the facts. It opens with the message, "Based on a true story. Sort of..."
Domino quickly establishes a familiar background for its heroine -- she was a bitter misfit, the kind of self-outcast character in the movies who rails at the Heathers -- before moving on to what it's most interested in. Screenwriter Richard Kelly, of Donnie Darko fame, knows a thing or two about black sheep and has placed the focus on the familial acceptance Domino (Keira Knightley) finds during her bounty hunting days. Her relationship to her boss Ed (Mickey Rourke) and his right-hand man Choco (Edgar Ramirez) may not be warm and fuzzy, but they create a bond of fierce loyalty and thus foster a sense of belonging, which is more important to Domino than she would ever readily admit.
Well, that was the plan, anyway -- and the movie never delves much deeper than that. Knightley appears game for the role, sporting a short-chopped waifish do and an everpresent angry pout, but she doesn't get to do much more than seethe, become enraged, and/or shout. As a result, insight into her character suffers, and she never feels like anything more than an infuriated girl holding a weapon in one hand and flipping off the world with the other. Not helping matters is the contrast that comes from Rourke's performance, who can convey a layered weariness with just a simple, bemused expression, giving a secondary character potential to be more interesting than the film's lead. Even with him around, Domino's emotional anchor is too light as the movie careens around in its cinematic pyrotechnics, splashes about in ironic humor, and eagerly flashes its large and mostly famous cast.
Scott and Kelly apparently wanted to make the film into one of those amusingly hip gangster movies with multiple complications coming from multiple parties (were they trying to be Guy Ritchie?), and indeed the film becomes quite overloaded during its last half, with the involvements of Las Vegas mobsters, reality TV crews, and a subplot featuring a dying child.
Somewhere along the way, the very person of Domino became lost. The film had the potential to be an angry girl anthem, complete with the rejection of traditional mainstream femininity (a big missed opportunity here, as Ms. Harvey openly spoke about the lesbian part of her personality, which is totally ignored here), the preference for a testosterone-driven lifestyle, and all the complications that come with it. You can see how the movie skims this material, but you're probably better off just watching its style fly by.
(Released by New Line Cinema and rated "R" for violence, pervasive language, sexual content/nudity and drug use.)
Review also posted on www.windowtothemovies.com.