Saturday, September 22, 2012

"Domino" (2005)

Starring Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke and Edgar Ramirez
Written by Richard Kelley
Directed by Tony Scott
Rated R - Violence, language, drug use, nudity, sexuality
Running Time: 127 Minutes

Domino Harvey (Keira Knightley) is a young, attractive woman who has never really gotten along well within the constraints of what society thought she should be doing. She trains herself with guns, fighting skills and hand to hand weapons.  After a brief stint as a model, she gets a job as a bounty hunter for Claremont Williams III (Delroy Lindo).  She works with Ed Moseby (Mickey Rourke) and Choco (Edgar Ramirez) and their driver Alf (Riz Abaasi).  They bust criminals who have skipped bail.

Claremont Williams, however, is not quite on the up and up.  After the team signs on to be part of a new reality show produced by sleazy Mark Heiss (Christopher Walken) and hosted by Ian Ziering (Ian Ziering) and Brian Austen Green (Brian Austen Green), Williams orders them to track down a team of armored car hijackers known as the First Ladies.  He provides them with the names of the hijackers, and the team goes to work with the cameras in tow.

But Domino suspects that something is amiss when it turns out there are no arrest warrants out for the men Williams fingers. With an ever more complicated string of problems including FBI surveillance, $10 million in missing mob money and a fake ID ring run through the DMV by Williams mistress Lateesha (Mo'Nique), Domino and the others find themselves in a dangerous situation that could get them all killed.

"Domino" is another film by late director Tony Scott.  Unfortunately, it's a lesser effort from the talented director.  The film's script is a mess, and Scott goes completely overboard with the direction, resulting in a film that doesn't look slick so much as sick.

There's an impressive cast at work here, but most of them don't get much to do that's very interesting.  They all seem like they're having a good time, though, which helps, but not by much.  Knightley is impressive, as usual.  She's good at being somewhat badass and a little bit crazy, which gets Domino into and out of some rough situations.  Mickey Rourke gets some good lines and a few good scenes to dig into, but mostly gets by on sheer presence, as does Edgar Ramirez.  A running gag involving people not understanding Choco when he speaks spanish goes nowhere, but his character is presented in a fun light.

The movie mines some comedy from some bizarre situations.  There are lengthy cameos by Jerry Springer, Ian Ziering and Brian Austen Green as themselves (the latter two hosting Domino's reality show, and then becoming "celebrity hostages" at Ed's command).  Mo'Nique is obviously having fun with her "mixed-race flowchart" scene, and Christopher Walken gets to be weird for a few minutes.  Mena Suvari has almost nothing to do as Walken's assistant, so she mostly just stands there and looks nervous.  Jacqueline Bisset tries to get into the role of Domino's bitchy, money-hungry mother, but the script doesn't give her much to do besides a couple scenes where she can almost act like she's scheming.  Lucy Liu also appears as an FBI investigator.

The script takes damn near forever to get anywhere, and it goes off on strange tangents.  The Jerry Springer scene doesn't do much to advance anything (and may even have set race relations back a few years, but that's nothing new for Springer).  There's a weird scene in the desert with a preacher that's just bizarre.  It mostly tries to wrap this story of an armed car heist around Domino's life story, but it mostly ends up making the film feel disjointed.

Tony Scott's direction is so amped up here that it's almost like a parody of his own work.  The entire movie seems cast in a sickly yellow green, with lots of grainy photography and blown out contrasts.  The editing style is a chore to watch, with nearly every scene broken up in weird ways, stuttering photography and strange editing choices.  "Domino" is an ugly film, despite the attractiveness of its lead.  The action sequences are difficult to follow.

The aggravating photography and editing also sometimes undo things we had been shown earlier,  which gives the film occasionally a feeling like it's playing with us.  Instead of having real plot twists, the film leads us in another direction and then tells us "no, that's actually not how that went" which gets annoying.  Indeed, when Domino's narration tells us that if we want to know what it all meant we "can just go fuck off," then the film ends up feeling like a bit of a jerkoff.

The comedic aspects also don't really mesh well with the dramatic ones.  There's a certain humor to Domino offering a target a lap dance in return for information with a gun to her head, and all the scenes with Christopher Walken, but then the film ends up getting deadly serious and the comedic aspects seem to fall away.  There are two cast members from "Beverly Hills 90210" held as hostages for a good portion of the film, but nothing interesting or funny is done with that in any fashion.

The film drags.  It's not particularly entertaining, despite the promise of its premise and cast. Much of it was based on the real life of Domino Harvey, who died just before the film's release in 2005, but the situation it concocts is fictional.  I preferred the parts of the film that weren't so outright fake; a film just about the exploits of Domino and her team probably would have been more interesting.