In 10 Words or Less
She's a rebel girl in an un-rebellious world
Loves: Richard Kelly, Visually inventive films
Likes: Keira Knightley
A dream team for genre film fans, director Tony Scott (True Romance), writer Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) and actress Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean) make Domino the kind of movie that's exhilarating to watch, in an overwhelming win for style over substance.
It all starts with Knightley's stunningly sexy and entirely unconventional heroine. Based on the life of the real Domino Harvey, a model who gave up the high life to take on the lowlifes as a bounty hunter, the movie weaves a complex story of corruption, double-crossing and crime, told through flashbacks and dream sequences, with a sense of hyper-style that permeates every aspect of the movie. The whole package is framed by an interview between Domino and an FBI agent (Lucy Liu), who is seeking to find out what happened that left Domino bloodied and bruised.
From there, we bounce back to Domino's childhood and move forward through her misadventures as a bored little rich girl looking for excitement. Finding her calling as a bounty hunter, she gets stuck in the middle of a complicated plot to steal a lot of money involving the Mafia, while finding herself as the star of a reality show hosted by Brian Austin Green and Ian Zierling, formerly of "Beverly Hills, 90210." Obviously, this is not your usual model turned bounty hunter biopic.
The caper involves a massive amount of participants, and it generally holds together, with a few surprises along the way, but in all honesty, the story is not that important to the overall film. That's mainly because the movie succeeds best as a visual spectacle. Not to take anything away from Kelly's intricate script, but it exists mainly as a framework on which to hang beautifully choreographed action scenes and pretty pictures of Knightley. In that aspect, Scott does a brilliant job.
Knightley inhabits Domino and makes her an intriguing character, the kind of bad-ass chick that's been tried before, only to end up as a pathetic joke. But in Knightley's hands, Domino is truly hard-core. It doesn't hurt that she has two co-stars in Mickey Rourke and Edgar Ramirez whose machismo rubs off on her. Both could have been stereotypical tough-guys, but they work well as Domino's ticket to the underworld.
The film also features some fun parts, like Christopher Walken's ratings-hungry network exec, and his assistant, played by Mena Suvari. Incredibly, the former teen idols from "90210" do quite well in this movie, sending up their previous personas and adding some comic relief to the film. It would be hard to pick a bad performance by an actor, even with stand-up comic Mo'Nique involved, who has been unwatchable to me in previous performances.
In many ways, Domino shares quite a bit of DNA with Fight Club, as the way the story is told is as important or more important as the story itself. Unlike the brilliant ideas at the center of Fight Club, the story here is nothing more than a convoluted crime caper. Of course, watching a crime caper is never a bad way to spend some time, and Domino is one of the better one.
The latest addition to New Line's Platinum Series, Domino is being released in two versions, widescreen and full-frame editions. This review was done with the widescreen release. The disc comes in a standard keepcase with a promotional insert, and features a stylish, animated, anamorphic widescreen main menu, with options to watch the film, set up languages, select scenes, check out special features and view the DVD-ROM extras. Audio options include English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0, and DTS ES 6.1, while subtitles are available in English and Spanish, along with English closed captioning. The scene selection menus have animated previews and titles for each chapter.
Here's a movie that lives and dies with how it looks, and this DVD looks tremendous, with a 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that's pushed to the absolute limits by the film's visual maelstrom. The range of extremes in the color palette is excellently reproduced, including some vivid hues and washed out tints, without a speck of unwanted dirt or damage. This is simply a feast for the eyes.
If you have a DTS decoder, there is no other way to hear this film, as the DTS ES 6.1 track is as powerful and effective as the film's visuals. The soundtrack pumps with explosions and creative audio effects that come from all directions to put you right in the middle of the action. If there's something wrong with this audio, it's got to be nit-picky, as it's an overwhelmingly entertaining listen. The Dolby Digital track is fine, but it doesn't capture the energy of the high-octane scenes the same way as the DTS version.
The bulk of the extras are presented in the form of two feature-length audio commentaries. First up is a track with Scott and Kelly, though they are recorded separately. Each man sticks to their part of the production, with Scott covering visuals and the overall film, and Kelly talking about the story. Between the two, there's little left undiscussed. The other track is a unique recording of pre-production meetings with Scott, Kelly, producer Zach Schiff-Abrams and, of all people, Tom Waits. The editing is a bit choppy, the result of trying to be screen-specific, but the concept is a winner, as it lets the audience in on the creative process.
On a traditional film, "I am a Bounty Hunter: Domino Harvey's Life" would have been a making-of EPK featurette, but Domino is no traditional film. The essence of the 20-minute piece is the real life of the film's inspiration, which is explored through interviews with her mother, the real-life Choco and a childhood friend, along with sit-downs with the cast and crew. The interviews are supported by numerous pictures from throughout her life and footage of her on the set of the film, and paint a picture of a very unique woman.
An alternate audio track is available for the featurette, that has an interview with Harvey, conducted by Kelly. The quality of the audio could be better, as she's often difficult to hear, but the interview doesn't seem to have been recorded for use on DVD, and is more like a research effort. Considering the liberties the film took with her story, to hear her talk about herself is a welcome opportunity.
A collection of seven deleted scenes actually provide some interesting moments for once, instead of the standard cutting-room floor rejects. Included in this section are a profanity-laced counseling session for a college-aged Domino, more Walken, a chance for Ian Zierling to stand up for himself, and a bonus for the hetero Knightley fans, in the form of an alternate version of her love scene with Choco. These segments have optional and informative commentary by Scott.
"Bounty Hunting on Acid" s a 10-minute featurette covering the unique visual style of the film. Through interviews and on-set footage, the various techniques used to make Domino look the way it does are explained. Anyone interested in how to manipulate the look of a film should find this fascinating.
Pop the disc into a DVD-ROM drive and a few more bonuses are available, including New Line's excellent script-to-screen feature, which has a neat character map, illustrating the relationship between the characters in a scene.
The Bottom Line
Just looking at a few minutes of Domino hammers home the point that it is the product of a pair of truly creative people. It's not the most engaging story or the most cohesive film, but it is a kinetic effort that must be recognized as an exciting cinematic experience that wrings every bit of energy from its ingredients, including an iconic performance by Knightley. The DVD does the trick in delivering a well-rounded package that touches on all the major factors in the film, though it's more likely to appeal to cinephiles than the average film-goer. If you enjoy films like True Romance or Fight Club, there's a real good chance you'll have a good time here.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.