Combustible Celluloid
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With: Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez, Christopher Walken, Mena Suvari, Jacqueline Bisset, Lucy Liu, Delroy Lindo, Mo'Nique Imes-Jackson, Macy Gray, Dabney Coleman
Written by: Richard Kelly, based on a story by Richard Kelly and Steve Barancik
Directed by: Tony Scott
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, pervasive language, sexual content/nudity and drug use
Running Time: 120
Date: 09/25/2005

Domino (2005)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Falling 'Domino'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Domino Harvey, who passed away this past June at age 35, was the very real daughter of actor Laurence Harvey (best known as the hypnotized killer in The Manchurian Candidate). British-born and bored with her privileged background, she flitted off in several scattered directions. She embraced her bisexuality and was not above taking the occasional narcotic. She allegedly worked as a model and definitely worked as a bounty hunter. Apparently, she had worked with director Tony Scott on the film of her life for over a decade, and it was rumored that she was unhappy with it.

As well she should be. Domino isn't really interested in the story of a person, but in the story of a bunch of pulp characters that could only exist in fiction. The new film begins with a faint echo of Domino's story, but quickly morphs into a preposterous caper yarn.

Told in flashback as an arrested Domino (Keira Knightley) puts up with bitchy questions from an icy detective (Lucy Liu), the complex puzzle centers around -- of all things -- a sick child in need of a $300,000 operation. The child's 28 year-old grandmother, Lateesha (Mo'Nique Imes-Jackson), works at the DMV, where she has connections to a powerful bail bondsman, Claremont Williams (Delroy Lindo) who, in turn, hires our bounty hunter.

The plan is to steal $10 million from a shady businessman (Dabney Coleman), blame someone else, and arrange to capture them for a $300,000 finder's fee. Unfortunately, Lateesha has attracted the attention of the FBI, not to mention that two of the fall guys for the robbery turn out to be a gangster's sons.

It's up to Domino, her boss Ed (Mickey Rourke) and his right-arm man Choco (Edgar Ramirez) to set things right. Unfortunately, all this happens just when a television crew begins following the bounty hunters for a new reality show.

Even if Domino weren't based on a real person, this multi-layered plot certainly has potential. After all, it was partially conceived by Richard Kelly, whose amazing 2001 film Donnie Darko has entered the cult film zeitgeist. But Domino needed finesse, a sure touch that Tony Scott does not have.

Raised on television ads, Scott has always been a style-over-substance kind of guy, and this approach has worked on strong material like True Romance (1993) and Crimson Tide (1995). But in Domino Scott changes tactics slightly and tries out a "style-completely-obliterates-substance" approach instead.

How does one describe the look and feel of Domino? The film appears as if shown through a golden-hewed magic lantern, set afire, photographed through constantly switching lenses and bounced around on an outboard motor, while being edited by monkeys. It never stops jerking and twitching, as if the film stock were developed in an emulsion of Red Bull. "He has the attention span of a ferret on crystal meth," chides one line of dialogue, and that seems to be Scott's opinion of his audience.

Despite Scott's motley direction, Domino has a lot going for it. The story almost congeals into a satisfying crunch, and the entire cast appears happily occupied. Knightley, who has proven that she can play just about anything, gives Domino an appealing ferocity, while Rourke gleefully gnaws the scenery. He is matched in masticating ability by none other than Christopher Walken, as the reality TV show producer, aided by his button-cute assistant (Mena Suvari, with glasses).

Jacqueline Bisset, Tom Waits and Macy Gray round out the mix-tape of a cast, but Mo'Nique Imes-Jackson deserves special mention for her surprisingly detailed portrait of the hapless Lateesha. She is best known as a comedienne in films like Soul Plane and in a hilarious 2004 Pepsi TV ad, but here she has tripled her repertoire. An entirely useless scene in which Lateesha appears on "The Jerry Springer Show" as the nation's youngest grandmother could easily have been cut, but Imes-Jackson sells it so well that Scott obviously fell for her.

Domino herself appears briefly at the film's conclusion, a single shot broken up into several cuts for no apparent reason, and she remains a mystery. If only Scott could have embraced her like he clearly loves his actors, Domino might have found its center.{subid}&url=hitlist.asp?searchfield=marvel
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