Domino (2005)

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Published on: 2007.05.01

A Weird Movie for a Weird Mood
(A movie review by Wil C. Fry)

I guess you have to be in a weird mood to enjoy Domino, and I was in a weird mood this evening when I went to view it.

It’s “based on a true story,” according to the opening credits, but then the next words on screen say “Well… Sort of.” I’m not sure what that means. The real-life Domino Harvey was the daughter of movie actor Laurence Harvey, that much is true, though it’s unclear whether she was actually a fashion model in real life, though her mother really was. Apparently, Domino really was a bounty hunter in real life, though apparently the movie portrayed her very sympathetically, considering that she was arrested this year on suspicion of possession of meth, and later died of an overdose, the drug in question being more powerful than morphine.

But aside from the movie’s variance from real life, which any movie-goer would expect, Domino was a fascinating watch. Keira Knightley played the character with a superb mix of nonchalant post-teen angst and unrestrained sensuality. The surrounding cast of characters included several well-known names to movie fans, such as Mickey Rourke, Christopher Walken, Delroy Lindo, Ian Ziering (as himself), Macy Gray, Lucy Liu, Mena Suvari, and even Jerry Springer (as himself). However, besides Knightley herself in the title role, it was mainly Rourke and Edgar Ramirez (in the third main role) who gave the movie its gritty feel, disturbing overtones and believability. Though all three have been in movies that decidedly weren’t the best (think Double Team for Rourke, and The Jacket for Knightley), all are brilliant in their performances as bounty hunters in Domino.

Rated R, for “strong violence, pervasive language, sexual content/nudity and drug use,” this flick isn’t for children, or even sheltered teens (if there are any of those left these days). And it’s not for squeamish adults, either. Even when the characters aren’t using coarse language, the music soundtrack is supplying the four-letter words in the background. The violence, while more rare than I expected, was strong, and — in places — shocking. The nudity, on the other hand, didn’t seem gratuitous, at least by today’s standards, and I found Knightley’s bare-breasted scene to be somewhat tasteful and artfully filmed.

Speaking of the manner of filming, Domino followed the irritating modern trend of shaky camera work, grainy and slightly out-of-focus shots, and almost constant fading or cutting to other shots that keep your eyes busy and make your brain tired, if you’re not used to it. It’s probably intended to imitate the old 8mm movies, or a badly-edited documentary, but doesn’t work for me on the big screen. Still, some of the angles, colors and styles are interesting and make the movie worth the study for a film student.

The soundtrack was worthy of a second listen, though I can’t find an internet site that lists the tracks.

As for the ending, I’ll agree with USA Today’s review, which calls it “tacked on and phony,” since it pictures Domino in an insanely happy and relaxing moment with her mother, who was early-on portrayed as the selfish gold-digger who caused the problems with Domino’s psyche in the first place. There was no explanation as to how the mother got back in Domino’s good graces. USA Today also described the film as an “incoherent scramble,” which again seems accurate.

The LA Times’ review says of the movie: “Domino is so over-plotted that it’s borderline incomprehensible,” and that sounds about right too. So many characters are introduced without warning — but later become important plot-thickeners — that it’s difficult to follow. It might be one of those movies that’s more understandable after the second or third viewing, if you can take it.

Todd McCarthy of Variety
was even less complimentary, calling the film “satisfying neither as character study nor as straight-ahead actioner,” though McCarthy seems to miss the point a little in his review.

What was the point? Probably the point was to have another silver screen vehicle for Keira Knightley, who — admittedly — has some acting chops and dangerously smoldering eyes, but is that enough reason to make a movie?

Okay, here’s my conclusion. I enjoyed it. But that’s because I enjoy most movies, and lately I’ve taken a liking to the strange and disjointed films that break out of the mainstream, probably because the mainstream is getting so damn boring. I’m tired of the marriage caper Julia Roberts “romantic comedies,” and the simple-plot or no-plot cop/action films that are only made to display bigger and louder black-orange explosions of police cruisers. I’m getting sick of stupid and low-budget sequels to decent movies, and I’m sick of slow-moving “character studies.” To be honest, I’d rather watch “The Simpsons” than most of the flicks Hollywood is putting out these days.

So, when a film is made that’s a little different, partly true, wildly filmed, unapologetic in its gritty, true-to-life pain, and featuring one of the hotter actresses on the scene today, I’ll go watch it. And I’ll like it.

But I’m not saying that YOU will like it.

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