Retro Review: Domino

I have been a fan of director Tony Scott’s work probably since 1983’s “The Hunger” and his debut blockbuster films “Top Gun” and “Beverly Hills Cop 2”.

The man knows how to capture the essence, style and majesty of a story even if it’s a studio film. I still love the style, music and photography of “Cop 2”.

Over the years there has been some controversy and bumps in the directors career like 1990’s “Revenge” and 1996’s “The Fan”.

It was probably 1996’s “The Fan” that truly tested my admiration for the director. I felt Scott was losing his touch especially after I felt a lackluster spark in the two spy flicks that followed 1998’s “Enemy of the State” and 2001’s “Spy Game”.

There was nothing of Scott in these films even though they looked good on screen.

Then 2004’s “Man on Fire” hit me like a blast-furnace and I knew Tony Scott was back.

This film was Scott through and through and was easily one of the best films of 2004. But hardly anyone recognized the genius in that film and it went virtually unnoticed.

Scott’s entry in 2005 is probably another bump in his landmark career then a success. It could also go down as the single worst Tony Scott film to date.

The film begins as Domino Harvey (Keira Knightley) tells her life story to FBI Agent Taryn Miles (Lucy Liu) after the incident that shattered Domino’s life as she knows it.

Her story begins as a spoiled rich girl and former Ford model, Domino has always had a rebel spirit and a shocking mentality. The girl just won’t hear the word “no”. She never liked the rules or the norm. This mentality and strength lead the young woman to attend a bounty hunter seminar where she meets rough, rugged but infamous LA bounty hunter, Ed Martinez (Mickey Rourke) and his partner Choco (Edgar Ramirez). Her life changed forever.

Where went “Domino” went wrong is anybody’s guess. The film from beginning to end is just one train wreck after another. The editing is quick, unforgiving, nauseating and beats you senseless. The images are graphic and disturbing as they make you scream for mercy.

I am sure as Scott put this film together he wanted it to be revolutionary and have a distinct look but what he got was a crock-pot of emptiness mixed with unrecognizable images.

In some respects the visual style seems fitting if you can endure it. During my final judgment in the afterlife, I stood looking into the abyss that was my life and it showed me a whirlpool image symbolizing my life then I am sure it would look similar to this flick.

I don’t know how fitting of a tribute it is to a troubled woman who died just last June but I could hardly endure its impact.

Away from the style I found the events of Domino’s life chopped down into chunks and sliced through a meat-slicer. The slices of this woman’s life are so small and seem to be strung together by a very fragile thread. The thread is the film’s brutal, unforgiving look.

The interview sequences between Knightley and Liu are interesting and well acted. I liked their exchanges and their chemistry.

The strange thing is that for the scenes out of the interview room, I felt no connection with Domino or her world. Knightley does her best to envelope Domino’s brisk behavior. Her performance is strong but it lacks impact.

Probably my favorite performance comes from Mickey Rourke’s Ed. It doesn’t seem to matter how many years this old warhorse packs on he still gives off tons of screen presence. When this guy is in a scene its hard not to smile and be enthralled.

I also really liked the comic relief of Christopher Walken who looks like he was having a blast as a media mogul bent on turning Domino into a reality-TV star. Walken is so priceless.

I just couldn’t get my head around the empty characters and lack of emotional commitment in their eyes. There is just nothing there. The style seems to be the film’s emotional crutch except that it doesn’t work. There were some scenes that even in a film of this type seemed so off kilter you can’t help but throw your arms up and throw popcorn at the screen.

Like the whole desert love scene and the whole motorhome sequence before was just so stupid and gratuitous.

If Tony Scott pulled back some of his digital style and stuck to the script for the most part then the film could have succeeded but instead we have this unapproachable yarn about zero.

If “Man on Fire” was Tony Scott’s best film, “Domino” is sure the antithesis of that film or his worst. Sorry, Tony.

(1.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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