The real Domino Harvey, daughter of actor Laurence Harvey, eschewed her privileged Beverly Hills background to become a bounty hunter in the late 1980’s. She had been involved with the project for 12 years until her death last September from an “accidental” drug overdose. Reports that Harvey wasn’t happy with the final product come as no surprise; for a film about a character trying to escape her movie star lifestyle, “Domino” is chock full of Hollywood conventions.
It includes the ubiquitous confusing mob involvement, gratuitous explosions and cutesy one-liners. Domino herself, played by the monotonously aloof and sullen Keira Knightley, seems to be taking off her shirt in every other scene. On her first bounty-hunting mission, she defuses a standoff with LA gang-bangers by giving one of them a lap dance. In the next, she’s riding a mechanical bull. The only real suspense in the film is whether Knightley will go completely topless (she does). This portrayal of Domino’s life as a bounty hunter includes everything she was trying to get away from.
It adds up to the feel of a movie you’ve seen before. In addition to the Hollywood clichés, lines are literally repeated, either with an echo or a different camera angle. Entire scenes reappear later in the film to remind you of what you’ve seen in the previous hour. You get the sense that Scott gagged screenwriter Richard Kelly (“Donnie Darko”) and bound him to a chair, then proceeded to cut out every line of the script, mix them up, throw half of them out and repeat the other half.
“I’m Domino Harvey,” Knightly says, six times in the preview and countless more in the movie. Unfortunately, that’s about as well as we get to know her. “My agenda is to kick ass and get the bounty.” This is about as deep as she gets.
We don’t get to know anybody else, either. Every time a character is introduced his name is emblazoned in white next to his face, along with overdone “Snatch”-like clips of that character. But these function more as bad jokes than exposition.
It begins with Domino in an interrogation room with a detective (Lucy Liu), and the rest of the story unfolds the convoluted plot that got her there. Luckily, we have Knightly’s narration to describe what’s going on. She repeats things characters have already said, sometimes summarizing scenes that we have just been shown. The filmmakers even resort to a flow chart of characters to explain what is happening in a plot that eventually caves in on itself. The predictable climax is inexplicably given away by a seer who resembles Metallica’s James Hetfield.
It is appropriate that the movie is about bounty hunters: Instead of asking you to come along with it, the film hits you over the head and drags your carcass along. In one sequence, Knightly licks her lips as one of her associates, Choco (Edgar Ramirez), undresses in a Laundromat. Scott zooms in on Choco’s abs eight separate times. Uh, Tony? We get it.
Christopher Walken, playing a TV producer whose secretary describes him as a “ferret on crystal method,” is the only saving grace. It’s entertaining just listening to him say words like “pow,” “wow,” and “bounty hunter,” through a speech impediment that makes him even harder to understand than usual.
The score is more frenetic, alternating between raps with lyrics like “I don’t want to love you, I just want to fuck you” and sappy strings sections, making it seem like Scott is trying to play our emotions like a cheap whore.
The strangest thing about “Domino,” though, is its attempt to provide social commentary, in the form of a clip from “Springer,” the presence of two 90210 actors and the smashing of numerous televisions. But the movie is a product of the attention deficit culture it is trying to satirize.
The best part about the movie is that it points out its own flaws. Domino explains a plot point, then agrees when Liu responds, “that doesn’t make any sense.” Of the 90210 boys, a mob boss asks, “What the fuck are they doing here?” Good question. Domino cuts off a man’s right arm because a part of her boss’ repeated directive is cut off by cell phone static. (Don’t worry, I’m not ruining anything — I already mentioned Keira’s nude scene). Maybe Scott repeats everything because he believes there is static between him and his audience. We hear you fine, Tony. We just have no idea what you’re trying to say.
“If you’re wondering what’s true and what’s not, fuck off, because I won’t tell you,” Domino says at end of movie. But she tells us everything, down to the smallest plot point.
A more fitting epitaph comes from Liu.
“You have no one to blame but yourself,” she tells Domino. The same will be true of you if you see this movie.