Domino (2005)

At one point in Domino, the main characters ingest the drug mescaline, which causes them to crash their vehicle, as it’s apparently hard to function normally while on such a drug. Given the way that the film was put together — the odd camera angles, the rapid-fire editing, the tint that made everything seem a little bit off — I would have assumed that the characters were always on mescaline. Nothing changes stylistically when they do the drug; we just see how it makes them happy and unable to properly control their tour bus. Perhaps it’s the filmmakers who were on mescaline when putting Domino together.

Or it’s just Tony Scott being too self-indulgent once again, trying to make a film with style and energy — and nothing more. It’s loosely based on the real life Domino Harvey, but before the film starts it tells us that it’s only “kinda” using her life as an inspiration, and before the credits roll, Domino herself lets us know that we’re never going to learn what’s real and what was made up just for the movie.

As such, and because I’m far too lazy and uncaring to actually look up what Domino’s life was like, I’m going to assume that anything that seemed to crazy to be true probably was. Domino wants us to believe that she, a model-turned-bounty-hunter, teamed up with two guys, Ed (Mickey Rourke) and Choco (Edgar Ramirez), got a film crew to follow her and her team’s exploits, and then wound up getting involved in some sort of heist with $10 million at stake. The only part that seems realistic — and even then, not so much so “realistic” as “possible” — is her becoming a bounty hunter, which is the only part I know actually happened.

Okay, so, the basic conceit here is that Domino has been captured by the FBI, and is being interrogated by an agent played by Lucy Lui. That essentially gives her a reason to tell us a story. We begin in the middle of the action, but soon begin the long, arduous journey to get here, learning all about how Domino got to this point in her life. We find out the circumstances behind a very contrived heist, and you’ll stop caring by the time the camera has rewound and you learn that something you saw actually didn’t happen.

Yes, that’s actually something that happens. More than once, as a matter of fact. You get told through Domino’s narration that something happened, and since we’re watching a film, we get to see it, too. And then, after a long enough time for us to have forgotten about it, we learn that, no, that was a lie, and here’s what really happened.

It’s supposed to be revealing and eye-opening but all it really accomplishes is being frustrating. There’s no reason for this type of unreliable narration, except to make us further doubt exactly how much of Domino’s life is accurately represented in the film, or to make a confusing plot even more so. It does both of those things well, with the unfortunate point being that they’re both detriments to an already poor film. Domino isn’t someone who deserved a biopic, it would seem, and only got one because she was friends with Tony Scott, the director.

Essentially, her story isn’t all that interesting. A lot of effort was put into making it feel like it’s worth telling — the aforementioned rapid-cut editing, the unique camera angles, the non-linear storytelling — but it’s all a ruse to hide how dull Domino is as a character and how uninteresting her story, or the one that Hollywood drew up for her, is.

There is nothing to any of these characters. They’re all angry, they’re all tough, and that’s about it. Even with Domino serving as our narrator, we find out so little about her that, for a biopic, we learn a surprisingly small amount. There are hints of potentially intriguing aspects as to why she became this way, her religious pulls, and so on, but they rarely come into play and when they do it’s on a completely superficial level. There isn’t a single bit of depth to anyone in this film, which is a shame because the makings of good characters are there; they’re just ignored in favor of Scott’s “style.”

That’s not to take anything away from Knightley’s performance as the gun-toting, chain-smoking bounty hunter, as she plays against type and seems to have a lot of fun doing it. Here, she gets to play the “bad girl,” and appears to enjoy herself. Rourke and Ramirez get lesser roles, essentially playing second fiddle despite the “we’re a team” mentality. The only other standout is Christopher Walken, who shows up as the television producer who wants to showcase Domino and her team to the world, and is hilarious while doing it.

Domino is a film that never should have been. Its subject matter isn’t that interesting, for one, and even though she, the woman of the title, was a friend of the director, it doesn’t give him a reason to make a film about her life. We don’t learn much from this biopic anyway, as we’re never told what’s real and what actually happened, so it’s best to just forget that Domino exists and watch a movie that will actually teach you a thing or two … or at least entertain you, which is something that this film simply cannot do.

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