Sunday, October 16, 2005

REVIEW: Domino

Note: Contains spoilers.

In last year's "Man on Fire," Tony Scott annoyed the ever-living hell out of me with the use of an insanely-disjointed visual style. Here, in "Domino," he not only uses the same style but actually makes it more insanely-disjointed... but somehow, this time, it works. Maybe it's because "Man on Fire's" simple redemption/revenge narrative was so basic and straightforward that the visual trickery came off looking forced an innapropriate. "Domino," on the other hand, is many things but basic and straightforward it ain't.

This much is known (as far as the film is concerned, anyway) about the recently-deceased (drug overdose) Domino Harvey: She was actor Lawrence Harvey's daughter, she gave up a modeling career for life as a bounty hunter, and apparently she excelled at it. After establishing all that within the first ten minutes or so, the film is finished with the "true story" part of it's opening title crawl and gets down to the "...sort of" for the remainder; and settles into the groove of a ridiculously complicated robbery/action flick with Domino (Keira Knightley) in the Van Damme role.

I'm fairly certain it's set up like this: Domino and her teammates Ed and Choco (Mickey Rourke and Edgar Ramirez) are sent by their employer Claremont (Delroy Lindo) to hunt down a gang of theives who've stolen money from a mobster and a casino boss (Dabney Coleman.) Except that the theives are also working for Claremont as part of a larger scheme... Except they go after the wrong guys, owing to a switcheroo forced by the FBI upon Claremont's lady-friend Lateesha (Mo'nique) who's grandchild is dying from a rare (and expensively curable) blood disease.

All of this occurs while a TV producer (Christopher Walken) and a pair of celebrity "hosts" (Brian Austin Green and Ian Zeiring as themselves) are following the hunters around as part of a reality show. In addition, we're to understand that some, most or all of this may be being misremembered or outright invented by Domino herself, as the story is framed via her testimony to an FBI interrogator (Lucy Lui.)

This unfolds out-of-sync, following Domino's scattered memory and often veers off into comic tangents, (like a scene where Lateesha appears on Jerry Springer to preach her invented theories of new racial subcategories,) and every scene occurs in the jittery, ultra-kinetic manner which Scott has fallen so in love with. Visually, it's pure overkill, but this film is ABOUT overkill. Everything is exaggerated, swollen up to an obscene proportion and presented as un-flatteringly as possible: Keira's Domino is ridiculously strong and imposing for such a nimble frame. Lateesha and her sisters, Lashindra and Lashandra, are ridiculously caricatured "sassy black chicks." The action scenes are ridiculously violent and epic... even Rourke and Walken are playing it further over the top than usual, which is really saying something. And don't even get me started on the fact that Domino's flashbacks come with both spoken and text narration.

And still Scott and writer Richard Kelly aim to push it further: The third act jumps the rails entirely after (spoiler alert) Domino and company survive a massive car crash and are saved in the desert by some sort of wandering prophet (Tom Waits) who charges them with a holy crusade involving the destiny of Lateesha's grandkid. Really. From that point on, it's anyone's guess as to what's actually going on, and even Domino refuses to tell us what was really true or what any of it meant.

We're in crazy-for-crazy's-sake chicks-with-guns-exploitation-flick territory here, and I for one dig it. Some may not, given that it's so odd and eventually doesn't make much sense. But this sort of thing is right up my alley, it's-own-sense-of-logic and all. I say go see it.