Thanks to dynamic performances by Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez and a strong cast -- sometimes all but buried beneath irksome stylistic flourishes -- this dark and absurd melodrama certainly has raw energy. As is the case here, a bad movie is sometimes more watchable than a mediocre or just-OK movie. So one can anticipate strong business for this nonstop actioner from New Line, especially among young males.
The movie is inspired by the turbulent life of Domino Harvey, who died June 27 in West Hollywood at the age of 35, the victim of a suspected drowning after a drug overdose. The beautiful daughter of the late film star Laurence Harvey, Domino made her living as a gun-toting L.A. bounty hunter. Richard Kelly's screenplay, in Scott's words, "manufactured the story but left the characters as real, breathing people."
Not quite true. Before her death, Harvey was reportedly unhappy with a story that wrote out any mention of her drug use or bisexuality. More crucially, the movie resolutely avoids examining the sadness of a life, begun in privilege, that found its only excitement in the adrenaline rush of banging down doors with a shotgun in hand. Scott's movie merely wants to exploit that life, putting the movie on a par with "The Jerry Springer Show" and a reality TV program, both comically portrayed in the movie.
"Domino" begins at the end of a big case gone horribly wrong. Knightley's tattooed and bloodied Domino tells her life story in prison to a criminal psychologist (Lucy Liu, in a successful against-type casting). Her narrative rushes through her father's death -- when she was 4 -- her failures at boarding schools, a sorority, in modeling and as a socialite. By the time her mother, ex-model Pauline Stone, marries Hard Rock Cafe founder Peter Morton -- everyone's name other than Domino's is fictionalized -- Domino is bored and restless in Los Angeles.
An ad for a seminar recruiting bounty hunters catches her eye. Her future boss, the tough ex-con Ed (Rourke), immediately sees the advantages of having an English-accented blonde in his band of brothers that includes sullen Choco (Ramirez), who adores her, and Alf (Rizwan Abbasi), an Afghan driver obsessed with demolition.
Implausible adventures follow, including one in which Domino extricates her fellow hunters from a tense situation by performing a lap dance for a gang leader. Corny motifs run throughout the movie, too: Domino sees the deaths of goldfish as signs from above. And she likes to flip coins in the air while murmuring, "Heads, you live. Tails, you die."
Then a producer (Christopher Walken) of a reality TV show and his harried assistant (Mena Suvari) approach the bounty hunters about starring in a show called "The Bounty Squad". The movie's funniest gimmick has "Beverly Hills, 90210" stars Ian Ziering and Brian Austin Green play themselves as the show's hosts.
A plot contrivance finds the squad's longtime bail bondsman (Delroy Lindo) and his girlfriend (Mo'Nique) desperate for a quick $300,000 needed for a life-saving operation for a granddaughter. This sends the Bounty Squad into a fateful, blood-soaked caper that involves a stolen armored car, Mafia money, a Las Vegas billionaire and an FBI investigation.
At one point, the Squad unwittingly winds up on hallucinogenic drugs in the desert. When Tom Waits abruptly materializes as a Wanderer from above, the whole movie goes on one bummer of an acid trip.
Under Scott's direction, his crew finds so many ways to annoy, from the manipulated color scheme and jarring cinematography to TV commercial-style editing. A soundtrack of hip-hop, rap and a few oldies is the only truly hip, edgy thing about this movie.
New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema and Samuel Hadida present a Scott Free Prods./Davis Films production in association with Metropolitan Filmexport
Director: Tony Scott
Screenwriters: Richard Kelly
Story by: Richard Kelly, Steve Barancik
Producers: Samuel Hadida, Ridley Scott
Executive producers: Lisa Ellzrey, Toby Emmerich, Victor Hadida, Barry Waldman, Zach Shiff-Abrams, Skip Chaisson
Director of photography: Dan Mindel
Production designer: Chris Seagers
Music: Harry Gregson-Williams
Editors: William Goldenberg, Christian Wagner
Domino Harvey: Keira Knightley
Ed: Mickey Rourke
Choco: Edgar Ramirez
Alf: RIzwan Abbasi
Claremont Williams: Delroy Lindo
Taryn Mills: Lucy Liu
Kimmie: Mena Suvari
Mark Heiss: Christopher Walken
Pauline Stone: Jacqueline Bisset
MPAA rating R
Running time -- 133 minutes