cast: Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Delroy Lindo, Lucy Liu, and Edgar Ramirez
director: Tony Scott
128 minutes (15) 2005
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
EIV DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Tony Lee
Although inspired by a true story, Domino is merely another high-profile action thriller, not a conventionally respectable biopic. Tony Scott sticks to the glamour versus gangsters’ mode of Hollywood’s girls with guns formula. So, in both style and content, this is more like John Badham’s The Assassin (aka: Point Of No Return, 1993) – itself a remake of Luc Besson’s cult hit Nikita (aka: La Femme Nikita, 1990) – than George Roy Hill’s The Little Drummer Girl (1984), a drama based on the John le Carré novel and therefore entirely fictional but, by creative intent, aiming for a noteworthy degree of realism that’s obviously lacking in this latest Scott picture. With its eclectic narrative asides, flashy stunts, spectacular effects and constantly distracting visual flourishes, Domino stands in marked contrast to Bradford May’s predictable yet entertaining TV movie, It’s Nothing Personal (1993), a similar tale about a crook-catching heroine, starring Amanda Donohoe and Bruce Dern.
As the ex-model turned bounty hunter, British actress Keira Knightley (The Hole, Pirates Of The Caribbean, King Arthur, The Jacket) often mistakes petulance for defiance in her portrayal of Domino, rebellious daughter of screen actor Laurence Harvey. In need if a father figure, Domino latches onto veteran bounty hunter Ed Mosbey (Mickey Rourke, building up his comeback profile since Sin City), and he becomes Domino’s mentor when she proves herself capable in dealing with the dangerous lowlifes of Los Angeles. Mosbey’s broodingly South American sidekick Choco (Edgar Ramirez) eventually becomes Domino’s lover, while the trio’s Afghan-born driver, Alf (Rizwan Abbasi), has a vital role to play in the film’s agreeably explosive finale. Lurking in the background and calling the shots for all concerned, there’s sleazy bail bondsman Claremont Williams (regrettably typecast Delroy Lindo), keeping Mosbey’s crew busy, and Christopher Walken on good – if not top – form as a reality-TV producer, supplying much of this slick adventure’s spiky humour with a scene-stealing performance, skittering across the behavioural register from nervously manic to ironically dumb, and barely pausing for calming stops in-between. Of much less interest is the supporting role taken by Brian Austin Green – from the TV soap Beverly Hills 90210 – as himself (the nominally streetwise host of ‘Bounty Squad’), and there’s also charisma-less Macy Gray, and hippo mama – the self-styled Mo’Nique to contend with. But all is not lost, because we get Dabney Coleman – as a ruthless Las Vegas mobster, Lucy Liu – as a slyly emotionless FBI interrogator, and Tom Waits in a brilliant cameo.
Some of the strong criticism of Domino is quite justified, but it’s not really a bad film, overall. Scott’s over-busy, Avid-crazy editing style does become irritating at times but, at least, he’s trying out engagingly weird aesthetic choices (especially in terms of customised colour and image manipulation), despite the vagaries of his mooted artistic visuals, and not simply fast-cutting just for the sake of it, like the shallow Michael Bay does. Perhaps the biggest problem is that young lovely Knightley seems miscast half the time. Domino Harvey is the kind of role that a younger Jennifer Jason Leigh could have tackled, and effortlessly run away with in her sleep, but Knightley only sleepwalks here when she ought to be going full psycho. I keep wondering how Domino compares with Robert Stone’s Guerrilla (which I haven’t seen yet), about Patty Hearst. I remember Schrader’s 1988 film with Natasha Richardson, so that remake could be a more interesting action-girl drama than Domino.