Maybe we should give director Tony Scott his due. The man does not know the meaning of subtlety-his movies are filled with electroshock editing, constantly shifting film stocks, really loud soundtracks and idiotic dialogue. But God bless the Brit, some of 'em (and only some of 'em, like last year's Man on Fire) are incredible popcorn movies, chockablock with the kind of sound and fury that allows you to put your mind on hold and just enjoy the action.
Domino is such a film. "Based on a true story...sort of," says an opening title card, which is as good a notice as any that this tale of Domino Harvey, bounty hunter, is about 90% bullshit. But what gloriously watchable bullshit it is.
Domino, who died of an accidental drug overdose on June 27, was the real-life daughter of actor Laurence Harvey of Manchurian Candidate and Room at the Top fame. Raised by her supermodel mother (here played by Jacqueline Bisset), she worked as a ranch hand and volunteer firefighter, then took a class for bail-enforcement agents and became a bounty hunter. At the time of her death, she was under indictment on federal drug-trafficking charges, which she claimed were trumped up.
So here's a movie starring the gorgeous Keira Knightley as Harvey, who supposedly dropped out of a posh prep school, then the supermodel scene, to take up with bounty hunter boss Ed (Mickey Rourke), who's gnarly, muscled and tattooed, and his assistant Choco (Edgar Ramirez), who's hairy, sexy, Spanish-speaking and, naturally, in love with our heroine. The trio works for Claremont (Delroy Lindo), a bail bondsman with, shall we say, slippery morals and a stable of African-American women he beds and uses in his schemes.
Domino opens with Ed and company trying to track down a dangerous gang-banger, then segues back and forth between the "How did she get here?" aspects of the tale and all the cool action stuff. Richard Kelly's screenplay is about as believable as creation theory, but a lot more fun. For example, when Ed and his crew realize they've staked out the wrong house in search of their gang guy and are in the middle of a potentially lethal situation, Domino defuses the tension by promising a lap dance if the man who owns the house will tell her where the guy they're looking for really lives.
But wait. There's more. TV executive Mark Heiss (Christopher Walken) decides he wants to make a reality series about the trio, so he, assistant Kimmie (Mena Suvari) and a camera crew follow our heroes on their appointed rounds. Then a multi-million-dollar heist of casino money brings in the Mob, the Feds, and what seems like every AK-47 owner in California and Nevada.
The thing about Domino is it's hard to tell how much of this is meant to be taken seriously. Maybe I'm giving Scott the benefit of the doubt, but my feeling is all the laugh-out-loud moments in the picture (and there are a lot of them) and all that unbelievable macho posturing by the thin-as-a-reed Knightley are deliberate. Let's hope.
The bottom line is this: If you can get through the first ten minutes of Domino (a big if, considering how loud and jumpy they are), chances are you'll be in for the full ride. It's stupid American big-budget filmmaking at its most endearingly idiotic. Which is damning with faint praise, but what the heck.