Domino Review

With Tony Scott's Domino we have finally witnessed the culmination of MTV-generation filmmaking and now things seem destined to enter the postmodern realm of the cinematic train wreck. Scott's latest film is so vacuous, so devoid of emotions and characterisation that it feels like an extended music video to a song that wasn't even worth playing to begin with. Sure, real-life bounty hunter Domino Harvey led a fascinating life that was brought to a close last summer due to an accidental overdose in L.A., but right from the opening caption the audience knows that what follows is by no means a true account of the young woman's struggles to fit into, or break out of, society – Scott tries to slyly wink at the audience by claiming that this is "sort of" based on a true story. Funny that – I didn't realise that life was a garish mess of grainy filters, obtuse jump cuts, repetitive edits, emotionless interactions and convoluted stories which occur to satisfy The Postmodern Hollywood Screenwriting Checklist. The sad fact is that Tony Scott is a very competent director who has, in the past, pushed the boundaries of modern directing and redefined – to a certain extent – the Hollywood thriller. Enemy of the State and Man on Fire are two examples of how he can skilfully merge exciting and compelling stories with engaging and inventive direction, not to mention his sense of narrative pacing. However, Domino is a bizarre anomaly that smacks of Scott trying to out-Scott himself in the most indulgent way possible.

However, I'm not trying to lay the blame solely at Scott's feet. Richard Kelly, a writer and sometimes-director whose debut feature Donnie Darko was such a revelation, is another filmmaker who can be classed as inventive and daring; his work with Domino's script, however, is lazy and downright tedious. The first 30 minutes, or his first 30 pages, introduces the three main characters – the titular Domino, the legendary bounty hunter Ed Moseby and his young Mexican partner-in-crime Choco – and manages to be both entertaining and vaguely intriguing as we begin to understand the demons which drive Domino Harvey and the way in which she can handle herself as a young woman living on the edge of the law. What follows, however, is Kelly's attempt to dress up a hollow heist storyline as some elaborate quest for justice and the self-discovery of a bunch of washed-up, sadistic outlaws. Whilst it seems naïve to label every self-aware, modern crime screenplay as a piece of writing which is indebted to Quentin Tarantino, it certainly seems that Kelly is trying to take Tarantino's overworked formula and add his own, Darko-esque spin to it – certain events try to throw up some greater meaning or relevance, and his attempts at integrating a reality TV storyline to highlight the continued emptiness and gratuity of modern Hollywood filmmaking are blatant and downright unneeded. The use of voiceovers, for example, unnecessarily smacks of QT-stylings and they in fact come across as pretentious and sluggish – an easy way for a screenwriter to mould a lacklustre story.

Furthermore, the aforementioned heist becomes so convoluted that I am still trying to work out the finer points – something which isn't helped by Scott's continued intent to use every editing trick known to man in some vague attempt to "enhance" the narrative; sadly it just makes a mockery of the entire film. Although the cinematography is generally very good, showcasing arid desert landscapes and detached cityscapes with visual flair, Scott's camera never stays still long enough for the audience to appreciate the photography and as a result the film seems to have one perpetual location – motion sickness. This over-kineticism that was creeping into Man on Fire has now spilled over wholesale into Domino...I dread to think what will happen with Scott's next project, Déjà Vu.

Keira Knightley is often criticised as a pretty if pigeonholed actress who lacks range or real dramatic talent. Well, whilst she should be commended for being brave enough to abandon her previous image and dive headfirst into this role, she never really convinces us that she is a deadly bounty hunter. She can handle the alienated rich girl part of the character with ease, and the malignant maliciousness that underlines the character's intentions is portrayed well, but the solid backbone that Domino sorely needs is definitely missing. Knightley tries to talk the talk but in no way can she walk the walk. However, Mickey Rourke's performance as Moseby is certainly something to be applauded. He is constantly demonstrating his abilities as a tough, enigmatic performer who can pretty much handle any role with ease: witness the change in emotions from Sin City's vulnerable, misunderstood, pathologically-violent Marv to his performance here as a confused father figure who doesn't know whether he should be putting an arm around Choco and Domino or supplying them with ammunition. These character traits are not so much present in Kelly's script but instead shown through Rourke's physical performance and the way in which his eyes do most of the talking. Meanwhile, Edgar Ramirez looks the part as fellow hunter Choco and Christopher Walken continues his supporting actor career with an amusing, if completely absurd, contribution to the film's erratic proceedings.

I find it hard to write much more about Domino because it is such a non-event of a film, a huge misfire from a group of talented artists, which is a shame since I came to the film with high expectations. It seems amazing that New Line's studio executives actually tolerated Scott's hyperactive tendencies and allowed the film to be released as it stands; even as a piece of entertainment the film is sincerely lacking and any real sense of edge or excitement is completely missing. Two years ago Harry Knowles praised Kelly's script to the hilt – I wonder what happened to it since then. Perhaps if the film had been directed by a filmmaker with more restraint, someone with a real interest in getting to the heart of a character, and examining the demons which cause them to lead such misunderstood lives, then Domino would have been a much better film.

The Disc
This Canadian R1 version of the film is a direct port of New Line's Platinum Series edition and is released care of Alliance Atlantis; separate Widescreen and Foolscreen versions are available. English and Spanish subtitles are provided during the main feature – they are clear and legible. The menus are animated well and look very similar to those found on the recent Man on Fire DVD.

Audio-Visual Presentation
For a film which exhibits brash and continuously-blinding visuals, the video transfer is very good indeed. Presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, colours are reproduced faithfully and there are no visible digital artefacts; the grain which is present is clearly intended to be there and all of Scott's childlike indulgences are displayed with unfortunate clarity and detail. My only criticism would be the occasional instance of aliasing.

The DTS-ES 6.1 soundtrack, the highlight of the audio mixes, is vibrant and enveloping. Whilst the dialogue is presented crisply through the front channels, the surrounds are used to good effect throughout the more bombastic sequences. For those without DTS decoders, you'll find an equally-impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 EX mix which, whilst not as aggressive as the former, still showcases the film's soundtrack very well indeed.

The two audio commentaries – one by Tony Scott and Richard Kelly (which sounds as if they were recorded separately) and the other with Scott, Kelly, producer Zach Schiff-Abrams and Tom Waits – are both insightful and I'm sure fans of the film will enjoy listening to what is said. "I Am a Bounty Hunter" is the next most substantial extra, a 20-minute look at the real Domino Harvey's life featuring interviews with the people who knew her best. Meanwhile, seven deleted scenes are unfortunately more of the same, whilst a 10-minute featurette entitled "Bounty Hunting on Acid" examines the film's visual "style". Three trailers and some DVD-ROM features round off the package.

A dismal, painful film is presented on an impressive disc. Fans of the film (ahem) will definitely be pleased with this package. I, meanwhile, just hope that Tony Scott and Richard Kelly both make wiser creative choices with their upcoming projects.

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Last updated: 19/04/2018 06:11:12

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