Keira Knightly as Domino Harvey
Mickey Rourke as Ed
Edgar Ramirez as Choco
Lucy Liu as Taryn Miles
Mena Suvari as Kimmie
Christopher Walken as Mark Heiss
Riz Abbasi as Alf
Delroy Lindo as Claremont Williams III
Mo’Nique Imes-Jackson as Lateesha
Shondrella Avery as Lashandra Davis
Macy Gray as Lashindra Davis
Jacqueline Bisset as Paulene Stone
Dabney Coleman as Drake
Stanley Kamel as Cigliutti
Lew Temple as Locus Fender
Dale Dickey as Edna Fender
Jerry Springer as Himself
Brian Austin Green as Himself
Ian Ziering as Himself
It’s a good story with a really interesting character, but it is told so badly it’s difficult to maintain interest in it. Tony Scott (“Man on Fire”) commits the most cardinal of directorial sins he takes a potentially good, maybe even great, movie and makes it dull. Even bad films can be entertaining in their way, but “Domino” barely manages that and only in small bursts.
The watchword of the film is Attitude. It tries very hard to be punk rock, so hard that it often comes across as fake and affected. Knightly’s performance is all about attitude, and it works for the most part. Domino has a certain nihilistic view of life, with a hint of a real human being lying underneath, and Knightly plays the role with gusto. Unfortunately, every time it looks like she might be getting somewhere real, Scott pulls the film back to affected coolness and the moment is lost.
The rest of the characters are a mixed bag of good and bad, and often as not are given the short shrift by the story structure Scott has imposed. Mickey Rourke is perfect as Ed the world weary bounty hunter showing Domino the ropes, but despite being in most of the film he gets to do surprisingly little and he’s not the only one who suffers from that. Characterization is replaced by exposition for most of the film. Instead of characters doing and saying things and the audience learning about who they are through the doing, we get to hear Domino talk about them and explain who they are through constant, mind-numbing exposition. It lessens every character and makes it impossible to care about them or what happens to them. Among the better story choices, Brian Austin Green and Ian Ziering, playing themselves as the celebrity hosts of “Bounty Squad”, provide some of the film’s best moments, waffling between numb acceptance and utter horror as events around them spiral more and more out of control. For the most part, however, what actual character moments there are, are often embarrassingly badly chosen, focusing on the wrong people at the wrong time, like the interminable Jerry Springer scene that could have been replaced with anything else and would have served the film much better.
But that’s all just a symptom of “Domino”‘s real problem. Scott and writer Richard Kelly (“Donnie Darko”) have saddled the film with an absurd structure that makes it almost impossible to maintain interest. The first hour is devoted mainly to explaining the back story of all the major (and some of the minor) characters through voice over narration by Domino. The story proper doesn’t start until halfway through when Domino, Ed, and Choco (Edgar Ramirez) her unrequited love who does nothing for the entire film but sulk after Knightly in an unremittingly and unnecessarily angsty sub-plot are approached by Mark Heiss (Christopher Walken) to star in their own reality television series, “Bounty Squad.”
Once it gets going, “Domino” is more than decently entertaining, building up to a cracker jack finale. But by that point it’s too late, Scott has already drained the life from the film. It’s not all doom and gloom. It’s very stylish. Scott has taken his bag of tricks from “Man on Fire” and dug into it again as he experiments to add some words to his own film grammar. It’s always good to see a director try to add something to the craft, but it can be difficult to watch at times and as with the film’s narrative style, not all of Scott’s choices are good ones. In more ways than one Domino is more of an experiment than a story.
“Domino” isn’t particularly bad, nor is it particularly good. Despite a great deal of promise and a rousing (albeit too drawn out) finale, it is crippled by a lack of narrative focus and good characterization. But it could have been so much more, and that is truly the worst thing that could be said about it.
“Domino” is rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, sexual content/nudity and drug use.