Director John Ford once said that if you must choose between the fact or the legend, go with the legend, and it’s a known verity that about ninety percent of the biographical pictures ever made in Hollywood have had some or all story elements of its subjects embellished, romanticized, or utterly sensationalized. What you have to appreciate about this is that it admits without shame that it’s somewhat made up. We’re never told by really anyone which parts are fabricated, but the filmmakers sought out to remind us in the opening scenes: “Based on a true story… sort of”. It’s a clever opening that made me somewhat amused because it let me know without bullshitting me that the people are real, but the story is pretty made up, but enjoy it either way.
And I have to admit, when all was said and done, I had a lot of fun. My experiences at the movies would be much easier if there was a disclaimer at the beginning that read: “Just so you know… we’re kind of bullshitting you. But have fun!” For those who don’t know the story, Domino Harvey was the daughter of famous actor Lawrence Harvey who couldn’t adjust the life she was demanded to live as a rich spoiled brat. She became a supermodel, and then became a bounty hunter, hunting criminals and becoming well known in her profession. Domino, who died during post-production for the troubled film shoot, is played by Keira Knightley who really does take the role on with a lot of skill spewing charisma and beauty. Domino knows she’s brutally sexy, but uses it as an advantage to move ahead on the field. Knightley works well as the anti-heroine who basically doesn’t adjust to her life as everyone expects her to as a vicious Tom Boy-ish warrior.
She’s beautiful, but not afraid to get messy in the boys club making it look so damn cool. Knightley finally gets the spotlight and deserves so for her great performance making Domino a mysterious individual that we never really get to know in spite of this. The film, written by Richard Kelly of “Donnie Darko” manages to keep the character of Domino true to her nature depicting her as a bored rich girl who was very bored and just wanted to have a good time as a bounty hunter which would be more realistic than depicting her as a girl who wanted to fight crime yadda yadda. “Domino” suffers from the unfortunate distinction of being often times very cheesy where it often bordered on being a blaxploitation film sans Pam Grier. This has all the devices of that genre often taking its subject as more of an action heroine incarnate instead of as a real person.
As per usual Scott fashion approaching film, he has no idea how to approach this movie. He sometimes seems like he wants to add a very Oliver Stone nuance, but he also tries to turn it in to a stupid crime fighter seventies drama, to whatever the hell he was trying to turn this movie in to. There are hints of immense schlock, and the campy with the subplot starring the insanely grating Mo’ Nique and her friends which serves for the catalyst for the entire movie. Scott just has no idea where he wants to bring this story, and much of it is utterly inept in its narrative. Which is to be expected. Scott’s direction is horrible and just hard to look at. He has no idea how to bring together a coherent semi-biographical film, so he throws in as much repetitive editing and whatnot to cover up for that fact.
This felt like a two hour music video without a real point in sight. There was even one scene where we see Domino as a child with her father, and it’s plainly obvious that we’re looking at a sequence of her as a child, but Scott feels inclined to add on the screen “As a Child”. Well, no shit. Thanks for cracking the code on your esoteric storytelling. Dostoyevsky would be proud. Either way, Scott repeats his scenes again and again which is interesting and had this film been better it would have been a good device, but its treated with such monotony, it becomes grating, and his direction of turning this from a great action pick in to a two hour music video really grinds my gears. Why take a story with ripe possibilities of becoming a hell of an action drama and turn it in to an MTV ADD riddled eyesore? It’s not visual, it’s not stylish, it’s just an eyesore.
It’s interesting when the heroine tells us “I just wanted to have some excitement” and really doesn’t give us a bullshit story which is what Kelly sought out to get through to us. With her are her two partners Choco (played by Edgar Ramirez) and Ed. Mickey Rourke is a pure bad-ass here as the experienced leader of the trio who really keeps them in check. Rourke gives different shades of a character that really deserved the respect it needed as a man who can explode at any minute, but always seems to know much better than the people in his team. Rourke is the utter highlight of “Domino”, and for him alone, he’s worth watching. He’s the most layered of the characters in here, and he approaches it like a pro. It’s great to see Rourke settling in as a more disciplinarian mentor performance because he really does handle it with intensity. Knightley is fun to watch as Domino who is never really afraid to take chances, and knows how to work people over considering she’s led mostly a sheltered life.
Within the often action-packed story, there’s also the humor which tends to shed some sense of light on the narrative and it helps that there are also some very well done respective walk-on roles from Jacqueline Bissett as Domino’s repressed mother, and the ubiquitous Christopher Walken is hilarious as a WB network executive, and there’s also appearances from Brian Austin Green and Ian Ziering who are hilarious spoofing themselves as the hosts of the reality show featuring the bounty hunter trio. Kelly writes an often taut and fascinating look at bounty hunters gives us some truly likable characters I often found myself rooting for. Though “Domino” is essentially not the brightest bulb in the box, it really does manage to be a lot of fun with great action and the winning combo of Knightley’s charisma, Rourke’s scene stealing, and the tight writing from Kelly.