Tony Scott, US, 128 mins
Cast: Keira Knightly, Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez, Rizwan Abbasi, Mo'Nique, Lucy Lui, Christopher Walken
'My name is Domino Harvey and I am a bounty hunter...' Sitting through Tony Scott's Domino is rather like being exposed to a non-stop strobe effect for two hours - the camera refuses to settle, parading gun battles, explosions and the Jerry Springer Show whilst continually inter-splicing the fragmentary glimpses of its characters' faces with shots of coins being flipped into the air and goldfish swimming around in glass bowls.
Based on the daughter of matinee idol Laurence Harvey (or 'sort of' as the opening sequence tells us just in case there was actually anyone out there labouring under the delusion that Hollywood biopics are ever anything like their real-life inspiration) Domino opens with the eponymous heroine (Knightly) being interviewed by an FBI agent (Liu). The rest of the film - an amalgam of Domino's life and a complex plot involving the DMV, the FBI and the mafia - is then revealed through flashback. As a young woman Domino lost her father, and then her goldfish, and subsequently vowed never to invest too much emotion ever again, a sentiment director Scott seems to share judging by the lack of emotion he invests in any of his characters. Unable to fit in at her college sorority or as a model, Domino seems a lost cause until she stumbles upon a bounty hunting seminar and is recruited by Ed (Rourke), Choco (Ramirez) and Alf (Abbasi) to be a member of their posse. Finally it seems that Domino has found her calling in life, and it is not long before television tycoon Mark Heiss (Walken) wants to put her on the boob tube. But things go wrong when a misjudged effort from DMV worker Lateesha (Mo'Nique) to raise cash for her sick grandson accidentally gets the quartet mixed up in a mafia and FBI stand off.
Domino is an unusual film in that it attempts to transcend the various limitations of genre categories by crossing action, satire, screwball and biography. Such a concoction can succeed - as the genre defying Chopper bears testimony - but is extraordinarily hard to pull off. Here unfortunately none of the different ideas are pushed through quite enough, so one is never quite sure what one is supposed to be feeling. Despite this, it is in this audacious effort alone that Domino achieves anything even close to success, and Scott is at his best when poking fun at his own protagonist. An example of this is when Domino gets bad reception on her phone, causing her to interpret an instruction telling her to roll up the shirt sleeve on a man's arm in order to view a coded tattoo as one to cut the arm off completely. Indeed, had Scott been more concerned with portraying Domino as the idiot her actions seem to indicate, rather than trying to somehow validate her bloodlust and canonise her as the patron saint of bounty hunters, the whole mess might have worked out. As it is, Domino walks around with her cronies, armed with automatic weapons and issuing platitudinous dictums in Queen's English (which echo even more platitudinously afterwards) whilst kicking down doors and punching people in the face, and despite Heiss' enthrallment it's hard to know why, of all the colourful characters on display, she is the one this film is focusing on. Knightly makes Domino very one dimensional too. Perhaps this is an attempt to satirise her limitations but, if so, it is unclear and as a result most of the time one is inclined to cringe rather than to laugh. The decision to tell it in flashback is a strange one too - nothing is gained from the interview: the hint that there may be a streak of her feistiness in the FBI agent is quickly suppressed, rendering this whole sequence redundant and robbing the film of what might, in an early draft of the script, have resembled an actual comment on something.
On the plus side, Domino is fairly unpredictable which these days is no bad thing. Every so often there also comes a moment where a scene will unexpectedly work - such as when Domino discovers Ed and Choco making a quick getaway with the money from their class: 'Those people paid for a fucking seminar!' she screams, flicking a knife into their windscreen. There is also a bravely different take on suicide bombing - and an interesting comparison is drawn between the sick grandchild of Lateesha and the poverty-stricken children of Afghanistan .
However, it is surely the Heiss storyline that rings truest in Domino, since his fascination with this former-model-turned-bounty-hunter is not merely a blatant criticism of the media industry, but also parallels the fascination of Scott himself. Certainly the image of her angelic face, khaki number and rifle cocked is very eye-catching and reminiscent of the famous shots of Patty Hearst brandishing her rifle and warrior gear, young and innocent face primed for battle in a mass-cultural, corporate driven world.