Thursday, October 13, 2005

GUILT-RIDDEN PLEASURE

Posted on Thu, Oct 13, 2005 at 4:00 AM

***
Domino
Studio: New Line Cinema
Rated: R
Website: http://www.dominomovie.com/
Release Date: 2005-10-14
Cast: Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez, Rizwan Abbasi, Ian Ziering
Director: Tony Scott
Screenwriter: Richard Kelly
WorkNameSort: Domino
Our Rating: 3.00

With Domino, Tony Scott continues in his quest to make films expressly for the hard of hearing, the visually impaired and people on amphetamines, who find that all other movies move too darn slow. There's nary a frame in Scott's highly fictionalized bio of model-turned-bounty-hunter Domino Harvey that doesn't seethe with overtreatment. The simplest scenes display the color-drained seediness of a CSI flashback. Lines of dialogue are repeated as disembodied, distorted echoes, for that club-remix effect. The screen is periodically overtaken by sudden, blinding white flashes, as if the entire cast were sitting for a mug shot. And titles fly in from out of nowhere to identify locations, players and even more rudimentary story elements. (Fear not, Scott fans: The plot is still nearly impossible to follow.)

It's overkill, all right, but it fits the cheeky venality of the material. It also negates any speculation that star Keira Knightley – an actress properly described as "wispy" – would be simply unbelievable as Harvey, a former Ford model endowed by the script with a hair-trigger temper that has her busting noses at a moment's notice. From Frame One, the movie itself is beating up on us, so why shouldn't Knightley get in on the act?

Beating up is the point of Domino, and it does so in brazen style as its title character, the beautiful real-life daughter of actor Laurence Harvey, shuns her privileged upbringing to pursue a life of violent thrills. We get to watch her graduate from launching sudden, brutal assaults on sorority sisters to eking out a career as a tougher-than-leather bounty hunter, teaming up with the wretched refuse of humanity to pry blood-spattered paydays out of … well, other wretched refuse. Along the way, Harvey's otherworldly beauty stands her in good stead, as when she pioneers the unorthodox technique of dispensing lap dances to end armed standoffs.

Why this riches-to-bandoleros arc was inevitable for Harvey (who recently passed away) is something the script fails to adequately explain. Her father's death and her mother's decadence appear to have had something to do with it, but the death of her goldfish is treated with just as much gravitas. Close-ups of pathetically swimming fishies dot a story that begins with a desperate hostage crisis and then circles back, showing how Harvey earned the coveted title Bounty Hunter of the Year and was courted by reality TV. Christopher Walken plays her show's producer, whose past hits include Heartfelt Sap.

Exploiting Walken for a jolt of defiant goofiness is old hat by now, so Scott ups the lunatic-casting ante by awarding roles to Mickey Rourke, Macy Gray, Mena Suvari, Mo'Nique, Jacqueline Bisset, Lucy Liu, Dabney Coleman, Delroy Lindo and Tom Waits, and to Beverly Hills 90210's Ian Ziering and Brian Austin Green as themselves. The opening credits aren't even over, and you feel a need to admit that the movie has won and you have lost.

This isn't a "good" film – not according to any sane person's definition of the term. But neither is a White Castle hamburger "good food," and every once in a while, you have to have one. Just don't make it too often: Your system couldn't handle it.

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