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New Line // R // January 20, 2009
List Price: $28.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted January 25, 2009 | E-mail the Author
"Fuck. I told them back off. It's too psychotic."
- Christopher Walken as reality TV svengali Mark Heiss in Domino

Domino kicks
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off with Keira Knightley as Domino Harvey -- a movie star's daughter turned model turned bounty hunter with tightly cropped hair and a goldfish tattooed across her neck -- stepping into an RV with shark's teeth slathered across the front. An Afghan with some unpronouncable name is scarfing down a slice of pizza, disinterestedly watching The Weakest Link as Domino gingerly strolls into the back and grabs some bloodied, battered, one-armed schlub. Meanwhile, this guy's redneck mama is reading tattooed numbers off a severed arm in her lap, using an oversized decoder ring on a paper plate to figure out the combination to a lock on a freezer fat-packed with ten million dollars. So, uh...yeah. Didn't take long for Domino to grab my attention.

Framed around an interrogation by a frigid, condescending FBI agent (Lucy Liu), the flick from there fills in the rest of the couple hundred thousand blanks. How did this elven, drop-dead gorgeous model type -- who weighs all of a hundred and nothing and happens to be the pampered daughter of The Manchurian Candidate star Laurence Harvey -- get to be a bounty hunter who's lugging around a shotgun and kicking in doors for beer money? Palling around with a leathery Dog knockoff (Mickey Rourke) who spins bullshit about Vietnam and playing backup for Pat Benatar...crushing on a Venezuelan (Edgar Ramirez) who pretends he can't speak English whenever he's around some foxy broad? Oh, and yeah, there's the whole tattooed arm that's been blasted off with a shotgun and a freezer in the middle of the desert with ten million bucks shoved inside.

There's no point in getting too hung up on the plot, though. I mean, there are a couple of points where Domino backpedals and completely chucks out a gaggle of murders at gunpoint, and between that and the "based on a true story (sort of)" text that's tossed up on-screen in the first few minutes, taut, grounded storytelling isn't really what Tony Scott's chasing here. This flick is a drug-addled fever dream. Think of the last movie Scott had hammered out before this -- the hyperstylish, borderline-psychotic Man on Fire -- and then stab an oversized syringe filled with Red Bull and mescaline straight into its jugular.

I mean,
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this is a flick where Keira Knightley offers up a lap dance to simmer down some hot-headed gangbangers. A balding nymphomaniac delicately presses "Play" on a boom box that starts blasting "Me So Horny" and then introduces an argument about porn consuming the world at large with "If 2 Live Crew has taught us anything..." Mo'nique -- as the Guiness Book recordholder for the world's youngest grandmother -- steps onto The Jerry Springer Show with a flowchart highlighting bi-racial groups like Blactinos and Chinegros still criminally unrecognized by the feds. A kid in a bubble! A bunch of dead-eyed DMV pencil pushers bonding over Billy Ocean! Christopher Walken as a sleazy reality TV producer hammering out a Cops knockoff on the WB anchored around Domino Harvey, who...yeah, grabs a fratboy at one point by the neck with a set of nunchucks and flings him to the ground. 90210's Ian Ziering and Brian Austin Green -- playing themselves -- as celebrity hostages? A bunch of badniks dressed up as the past few First Ladies while pulling a multimillion dollar heist in Vegas with mob money? 'Kay. I'm in.

Sparkling dialogue, rich characterization, linear storytelling, anything vaguely resembling the kind of grounded reality you'd usually waltz in expecting with a biopic...that's not so much what Domino's aiming for. It's a spastic acid trip of an action flick -- by design about as guilty a pleasure as they come. I wouldn't point to Domino as an especially good movie, but I think it's pretty much what Tony Scott set out to make: violent, overstylized, cranking up fucking everything a couple notches past eleven... Who'd have thought someone as unrelentingly adorable as Keira Knightley could be this convincing as an ass-kicking bounty hunter either? The movie's probably twenty or thirty minutes longer than it really needs to be, and the blown-out contrast and cuts every quarter-second can be pretty jarring at first, but all in all...? I dug it. Recommended.

Domino is an intensely visual experience -- style, substance, and that whole bickering match -- and Tony Scott's hyperstylized aesthetic translates startlingly well to Blu-ray. This isn't the usual sort of glossy, sparkling home theater eye candy, though. There's an entire featurette on this disc that spells out the enormous lengths Scott and his crew took to hammer out Domino's skewed visuals: blowing out the contrast, slathering everything in a tight sheen of film grain, painting the image with blooming streaks of a purplish-red, and oversaturating its palette. As stylized as the photography is, I frequently found myself startled by just how crisp and detailed Domino can be, and this really is a movie that screams out to be experienced in high definition. I've read some grousing on a couple of gearhead forums about compression artifacting in Domino -- that small patches of some of the backgrounds in this VC-1 encode have a slightly blocky look to them. I couldn't spot anything like that at a normal viewing distance from my 60" 1080p set, though. To my eyes, at least, this is about as perfect a presentation of such an off-kilter looking movie as I could've hoped to see.
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From its hyperaggressive surrounds to the pancreas-liquefying waves of bass, this 16-bit Dolby TrueHD track is complete sensory overload. The rear channels can be pretty unrelenting, and the frantic gunplay stands out as especially immersive. The low-end is meaty enough that each shotgun blast feels like I've just taken a jackboot to the stomach, and the thunderous hip-hop and colossal explosions coax a hellish low frequency belch from the subwoofer too. It's a pretty chaotic mix, but dialogue is balanced nicely enough in here. Tony Scott is keen on distorting Domino's voiceovers, but it's all clear and discernable throughout just the same. This is a solid track, and it's nice to see that Warner/New Line didn't shrug off lossless audio this time around.

A Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also packed on along with subtitle streams in English (SDH) and Spanish.
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  • Audio Commentary: The first of Domino's alternate soundtracks is a commentary with director Tony Scott and screenwriter Richard Kelly, who were recorded separately and spliced together here. I found it pretty dry, to be honest. There's a good bit of chatter early on about the 12 year process behind getting the project off the ground with a workable script. The casting process, the real-life Domino Harvey, and the sweeping changes made to the final reel of the film are also delved into in detail. My favorite comments swirled around shooting the climax in Las Vegas where nearly a thousand passerbys frantically called the cops believing that the Strip really was under some sort of terrorist attack.

  • Alternate Audio Track: It's mentioned in the audio commentary that Tony Scott records everything, and some of the pre-production meetings for Domino have been edited together and offered up as another alternate track here. Scott and Kelly once again drive this discussion, which is culled from several different meetings, and they're joined at varying times by executive producer Zach Schiff-Abrams and actor/singer Tom Waits. One meeting flips through the script and looks for cuts to make before cameras roll, and attempts are also made at smoothening out the chronology and potentially confusing character motivations. Directing standing out as a surefire weight loss program, squeezing a pig's ass, working out what political figures the robbers should doll themselves up as, the most effective way to suck down mescaline, a loud, quippy Tom Waits singing "purify me" for a few bars, and deciding whether or not to knock off a couple of central's the sort of thing I don't see on DVD and Blu-ray that often, and I enjoyed it quite a bit more than Domino's traditional commentary track.
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  • Deleted Scenes (8 min.; HD): A rarity for a catalog title, all of Domino's deleted scenes are presented in high definition, and they're offered here in 1.78:1 rather than reformatted to the movie's scope theatrical aspect ratio. Among them are Domino as a precocious tyke with a bound and gagged nanny, a teenaged Domino suffering through a meeting with a therapist, a grittier sex scene than the one in the movie, more footage of the bounty hunters tripping out on mescaline, and the 90210 boys bickering with a hostage-slash-their former lawyer. Tony Scott offers up optional commentary with the director narrating the action on-screen, briefly describing what each scene was meant to accomplish, and noting why it didn't make it into the final cut.

  • I Am a Bounty Hunter (20 min.): A more faithful telling of the life (and death) of Domino Harvey than the movie proper, "I Am a Bounty Hunter" features some of Harvey's friends and family but is told primarily by the cast and crew of Domino. It also touches on how Domino and Tony Scott first became acquainted, and there's a quick look at a deleted scene not offered elsewhere on this disc. An alternate soundtrack plays a fairly roughly recorded interview between Richard Kelly and Domino Harvey that's most interesting for describing the stark differences between her real-life partners and the characters in the film.
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  • Bounty Hunting on Acid: Tony Scott's Visual Style (10 min.): This featurette runs through a visual aesthetic Tony Scott has experimented with and refined over the years -- including the use of hand-cranked cameras, shooting at just a tiny handful of frames per second, multiple exposures, the use of reversal color and cross processing, and high-speed film stock -- as well as how that skewed style is meant to influence the storytelling.

  • Trailers (4 min.; partially HD): Oddly enough, Domino's teaser trailer is in high-def, but its theatrical trailer isn't.

  • Digital Copy: The second disc in the set includes a digital copy of Domino.

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The Final Word
There's a line belted out in Domino that goes something like "he has the attention span of a ferret on crystal meth", and...yeah, that pretty much goes for this not-so-much-a-biopic itself too. It's so hyperstylized and so far out there that the smart money says you'll either find Domino obnoxious and unwatchable or a hell of a guilty pleasure. A kind of masturbatory acid trip...? Style shoving a sawed-off shotgun into substance's gut and blasting away? I mean, I like the flick, but you're not going to get much of an argument from me there. If you've made it this far down into the review, though, chances are you'll find Domino at least worth a couple of clicks on Netflix. Recommended.
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