Monday, April 23, 2018

#2,498. Domino (2005)

Directed By: Tony Scott

Starring: Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramírez

Tag line: "I Am a Bounty Hunter"

Trivia:  The first words heard in the film, "Heads, you live. Tails, you die.", are spoken by the real life Domino Harvey

We’ll call this “In Defense of Tony Scott’s Domino”. 

Upon its release in 2005, Domino was savaged by critics. The Washington Post compared its hyperkinetic style to “a ferret on crystal meth”, while The Boston Globe attacked director Scott himself, saying his “pornographic lust for bloodletting, gunplay, and out-of-control camerawork far exceeds his abilities to tell a story”. The most brutal thrashing may have come from The Detroit News, which called Dominoone of the most awesomely awful films ever made”. 

To put it as succinctly as possible, I disagree. 

Fast-paced and frenzied, Domino has the look and feel of a modern exploitation flick. It is a highly-stylized action film posing as a biopic, and I loved every insane minute of it! 

Domino was inspired by the real-life story of Domino Harvey - daughter of actor Laurence Harvey (The Manchurian Candidate, Darling) - who tossed aside her posh Beverly Hills existence to become a professional bounty hunter. 

Despite her good looks and slender frame, Domino (Kiera Knightley) is tenacious enough to impress Ed Moseby (Mickey Rourke), one of L.A.’s most prominent Bounty Hunters. Ed makes her part of his team, which includes his second-in-command Cholo (Edgar Ramirez) - who quickly develops a crush on Domino - and their Afghanistani driver Alf (Riz Abbasi). 

Together, the group manages to round up a plethora of criminals, and it isn’t long before Ed, Choco and Alf see Domino as “one of the guys”. 

Ed and his crew report directly to bail bondsman Claremont Williams (Delroy Lindo). It’s a relationship that works well for both parties, but when Claremont’s significant other, Lateesha Rodriguez (Mo’Nique), tricks the bounty hunters into helping her steal over a quarter of a million dollars, Ed, Choco, and Domino find themselves in hot water with a shifty Las Vegas casino owner (Dabney Coleman) and a ruthless Mafioso (Stanley Kamel), both of whom want their money back, and are ready to do whatever is necessary to recover it. 

Kiera Knightley is strong as the title character, a former fashion model who turns her back on the 90210 lifestyle forced on her by her mother (Jacqueline Bisset). Instead, Domino joins the “macho” profession of bounty hunting. Though slight in stature, Knightley proves throughout Domino that she can play it tough, and kick ass with the best of them. I also loved seeing Mickey Rourke in a major supporting role (a few years before his breakout performance in The Wrestler); and the sexual chemistry between Domino and Ramirez’s Choco is tangible, to say the least. 

The rest of the cast is also impressive, especially Delroy Lindo and Christopher Walken (who appears briefly as a network executive producing a TV reality show). Yet it’s Mo’Nique who steals every scene she’s in (at one point her character even turns up on The Jerry Springer Show). And keep an eye out for former Beverly Hills 90210 stars Ian Zierling and Brian Austin Green, playing themselves in some of the film’s most outlandish sequences. 

To support these colorful characters, Tony Scott employs plenty of slo-mo, oodles of jump cuts, a camera that rarely sits still, and a spirited narration track (provided by Knightley). Scott’s vast array of stylish bells and whistles never lets up for a second, and infuses Domino with an energy that, at times, is quite mesmerizing. 

But it’s the individual “WTF” scenes - so gloriously bizarre you can barely believe what you’re seeing - that make this 2005 film such an unforgettable motion picture experience. Domino giving a lap dance to a gang leader (in exchange for information) is intense enough, but even this bit of awesomeness pales in comparison to what follows. 

There’s a crazy-as-shit burst of graphic violence (set aboard a Winnebago) that involves the removal of a limb; a tense stand-off between Ed’s bounty hunters and Edna Fender (Dale Dickey) that practically tears a mobile home to shreds; and, strangest of all, a drug-infused encounter with a wandering preacher (Tom Waits) in the middle of the desert. 

Like the best exploitation movies of the ‘70s and ‘80s, Domino continually surprises you with its surreal twists and turns, and I, for one, never tired of how marvelously it shocked me into submission. 

A word of warning: Domino is not an honest account of its title character’s life, nor does it provide any insight into what makes a bounty hunter tick. In addition, the film features a large number of supporting players (more than mentioned above) and story enough for two full length movies, so it does get a tad confusing at times. There’s also a good chance director Scott’s hyperactive approach to the material will wear some viewers out. 

But as straight-up entertainment with a healthy dose of social commentary (Scott and screenwriter Richard Kelly slip an examination of class values and the crippling effects of poverty into the mix), Domino is an absolute winner.

1 comment:

Jake Moore AKA: @RiverCityOtter said...

I count this as a rare Tony Scott directed misfire! Hard to watch or enjoy over the top not interesting to me.