I had this horrible dream the night after I watched Domino. The Earth was being taken out War of the Worlds-style, complete with tripods shooting lasers, turning people and buildings into dust. After the demolition was complete, one of the pesky extraterrestrials descended into the last film vault left to our name. Amidst the burning shelves and the stench of already charred film, the little guy finds a completely undamaged set of reels of film with “Domino” labeled in black ink on a stripe of masking tape. The film is taken aboard a ship, headed back to its native galaxy with one souvenir from Earth to judge its entire population by.
It was then that I woke up, stunned and disheartened that extraterrestrials reminded me of this awful piece of celluloid. Not since 1993’s Coneheads have I hated every moronic minute of a film, but Domino has put a stop to that drought. It’s one thing for a film to be bad and know it, but when a film is bad and is completely oblivious to the fact, it makes for one of the worst movie going experiences imaginable. I cannot, for the life of me, find one single reason why anyone should see this film.
Domino Harvey was a real person (she died shortly after filming completed under “mysterious circumstances”). Her claim to fame is that she went from walking the ramp as a model to becoming a bounty hunter, and the film would lead you to believe this happened overnight. As the film portrays her, she is not the least bit likable, but more of an obnoxious tomboy who just won’t shut the hell up. And rest assured, had she not been a model first, she would not have a story worth telling – and there certainly would not have been a film made in her name.
The plot is virtually impenetrable. The story picks up with Domino (Knightley) in her younger years, and at the snap of a finger she becomes a rebellious, people-hating woman. I guess that’s what being called flat-chested can do to a girl. She finds herself intrigued by bounty hunting and attends a scam of a seminar run by Ed (Rourke) and Choco (Ramirez). After busting them, she joins their bounty hunting clique and becomes entwined in one of the goofiest plans to steal $10 million ever put on film. Involved are the mob, a Las Vegas hotel owner, a woman who makes fake ID’s, a group of punk kids, and a guy who spends most of the movie with his right arm severed. Thrown in for no reason whatsoever is a subplot involving the WB having interest in airing the threesome’s adventures on a reality show, and Christopher Walken embarrassingly turns up as a sleazy exec. It is abandoned by the third act.
Richard Kelly’s screenplay should be treated as some kind of diseased relic by generations of Screenwriting 101 students to come. I have a hunch that Kelly himself couldn’t relay back a cohesive story from his own screenplay. The script is riddled with superfluous characters, absolutely banal dialogue, and not one reason to care about anything or anyone. This is all surprising coming from Kelly, who is responsible for scripting the now-cult hit, Donnie Darko. Also, is an extended Jerry Springer scene really necessary? Welcome to 1998.
Director Tony Scott makes things go from horrible to god-awful. He maintains the same hyperactive technique as used in 2004’s Man on Fire, but at least that film had Denzel Washington and a decent screenplay. The result here is one heck of an ugly film. Scott utilizes every trick in the book for trying to cover up a bad days work: atrocious filters, quick cuts, shaky camera work, and unnecessary panning. Even more baffling is his use of subtitles to narrate what is happening on screen, and he even has to stylize those. I’m surprised the whooshing sound wasn’t louder. Worst of all, the story still makes no sense when Scott elects to resort to literal visual aids and flow charts to try and convey to us which characters are related and why.
The acting isn’t really of note as not one character is developed beyond a one-dimensional caricature, Domino included. Keira Knightley does a whole lot of yelling and screaming, but it’s of no use since there is no reason to like her. Mickey Rourke, who was in the middle of a pretty impressive comeback, basically reprises his role as Marv from Sin City, but without the makeup. At least he can act cool effortlessly. Edgar Ramirez hides behind his hair for most of the film, and, like all of the rest of the characters, is completely expendable.
New Line has been shuffling this garbage heap around the calendar all year, and they have chosen now to descend this turkey upon us. Perhaps they were tired of seeing the amazingly annoying trailer everywhere. Ugly, vile, and completely contemptible, Domino is the worst film of the year and a punch-in-the-gut to Domino Harvey’s name.
Studio: New Line Cinema
Length: 128 Minutes
Rating: R for strong violence, pervasive language, sexual content/nudity and drug use.
Theatrical Release: October 14, 2005
Directed by: Tony Scott
Written by: Richard Kelly. Story by Kelly & Steve Barancik.
Cast: Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez, Lucy Liu, Mena Suvari, Christopher Walken