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DOMINO

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez, Delroy Lindo, Mo'Nique, Lucy Liu, Christopher Walken, Mena Suvari, Macy Gray, Jacqueline Bisset, Dabney Coleman
Director:  Tony Scott
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, DTS ES 6.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio:  New Line Cinema
Features:  See Review
Length:  128 Minutes
Release Date:  February 21, 2006

"My name is Domino Harvey...I'm a bounty hunter."

Film **1/2

The opening titles let you know Domino isn't quite your ordinary movie.  A true story, they tell us, with the mischievous disclaimer "sort of".

Domino Harvey (Knightley) was indeed a real person living the kind of life story you couldn't make up.  The daughter of actor Laurence Harvey (the original Manchurian Candidate) and model Paulene Stone, she turned her back on the world of the Hollywood brat and became one of Los Angeles' most notorious bounty hunters.  She passed away from an overdose in 2005.  Director Tony Scott knew her, and wanted to tell her story on film. 

Domino is an eccentric re-imagining of her tale, and trying to sort fact from fiction is futile.  Scott found in his leading lady character a catalyst for a chaotic film of relentless action, violence and absurdity, with a plot that opens up and keeps going back and re-inventing itself, so much so that trying to outline it is equally as futile.

We open as Domino is being question by an FBI agent (Liu).  Something has gone wrong.  It involves not only her bail bondsman boss (Lindo) and her two comrades in arms Ed (Rourke) and Choco (Ramirez), but also a wealthy casino owner (Coleman) and the mob. 

How did our heroine get there?  Well, that's what the movie tries to sort out in flashback form.  How Domino answered a newspaper ad and ended up twirling nunchucks instead of batons.  How she used her looks to her advantage, even diffusing a potential bloodbath with a lap dance.  How her boss' connections in the DMV, including Lateesha (Mo'Nique) used their connections to front fake IDs and where it led them.  And how a scam to rob a large sum of money went horribly awry.

You may think you follow as the movie flows along, but it withholds key pieces of information until late in the game.  Between the kinetic visual style and constant re-imagining of the storyline, you may find yourself more than a bit tired by the time it's all over.  I'm not sure exactly what I took from it, apart from learning that there apparently is such a thing as a Bounty Hunter of the Year award.  Who knew?

Keira Knightley's star continues to rise, and she managed to surprise just about all her fans with her presence in this movie.  The turn she makes from lilting leading lady to a hardened balls-to-the-wall hunter of human prey is more than a little startling.  And Mickey Rourke, fresh off his eye-opening work in Sin City, shows once again that he's a force to contend with.  We'll be seeing more of him soon.

The finale, high atop a casino needle, is quite spectacular, but after watching the supplements, I realized that Tony Scott killed off one protagonist who is apparently still with us, thank you very much.  What does it all mean?  Was it just meant to be a dark, fast fantasy, or was it a lack of courage to stick to only facts?

I don't know the answer.  I can't help but feel the real Domino would have enjoyed the movie.  Probably a little more than I did, at any rate.

Video ****

This anamorphic transfer from New Line is a knockout.  Scott's visual style uses fast cutting, deeply saturated colors and a mix of looks to give the picture a chaotic, edgy appearance.  The disc delivers from top to bottom, with striking quality and detail.

Audio ****

Whether you choose Dolby Digital or DTS extended soundtracks, get ready to duck.  This is one of the loudest and most dynamic movies I've seen on disc.  Just when you think the levels have peaked, it reaches back for more.  The multiple action sequences keep front and rear stages in a state of full activity, and the subwoofer delivers the bang time and time again.

Features ***

There are two commentary tracks, which are unlisted on the box for some reason.  One is with Tony Scott and writer Richard Kelly, and is the more informative of the two.  The other is a kind of hodgepodge of story meetings, notes and such.

There are 7 deleted/alternate scenes, and two featurettes.  One is on Domino herself, and features interview clips with her and those who knew her, and on it, you can also access an alternate audio track of Tony Scott's conversation with her.  The other featurette is on the development of Scott's style.  Rounding out is a teaser and theatrical trailer.

Summary:

Domino is a biopic on steroids.  It should have taken truth serum instead.  The movie delivers for a couple of hours of convoluted, high octane entertainment value, but I wish I'd walked away with a better idea of who the real Domino Harvey was.  Now that she's gone, we may never know.

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