Domino Harvey, who died of a drug overdose earlier this year while under house arrest for allegedly dealing methamphetamine, was the daughter of actor Laurence Harvey and model Pauline Stone. Domino Harvey may have been a model herself (accounts vary), and she most certainly was a ranch hand, DJ, and, most famously, a bounty hunter, using a delicate English accent and a Browning pistol to retrieve bail jumpers. It was tough, unglamorous work, one that her father's legacy and her mother's marriage to Hard Rock Café founder Peter Morton ensured she didn't even really need to do. She did it anyway. She was contradictory that way.
No doubt a fascinating biopic could have been made from the material of Domino Harvey's life. Someone might even have been able to turn it into a self-reflexive, postmodern, Charlie Kaufman-inspired adventure about celebrity and fractured identity. Domino seems to aspire to that, and perhaps the screenplay, as written by Donnie Darko writer-director Richard Kelly, got it right. But the finished product, as directed by Tony Scott, sure doesn't.
One of the founding fathers of what used to be known as the MTV style, Scott (best known for Top Gun and True Romance) has always emphasized image and sensation above all other concerns. But unlike his brother Ridley Scott, he's often had a hard time filling those images with substance. Lately, he seems to have given up on trying: Films like Spy Game are little more than a collection of moody lighting, gun blasts, explosions, famous faces, and good premises that go nowhere. Domino, which makes the attention-span-deprived work of Scott acolytes like Michael Bay look conservative by comparison, takes Scott's style to what has to be its logical endpoint. Any further, and he may as well just make movies for chimps.
Maybe he already has. Domino de-emphasizes the human element—not to mention such niceties as plot and clarity—to such a degree that only those who show up purely to watch combustibles go "boom" won't feel insulted. Keira Knightley plays Harvey with an unchanging grim expression and disaffected voiceover that could just as easily be hawking a cool new line of sweatsuits. Mickey Rourke and Edgar Ramirez co-star as her fellow bounty hunters, who, thanks to boss Delroy Lindo, get embroiled in an elaborate scheme to steal money from a Las Vegas tycoon as they try to launch a reality-TV show produced by Christopher Walken. Somehow, masks of famous First Ladies and 90210 stars Ian Ziering and Brian Austin Green (playing themselves) also factor into it. So do Jerry Springer, Mo'Nique, Dabney Coleman, Tom Waits, and Macy Gray. It's almost as if Scott culled the cast by thumbing randomly through his rolodex.
Those sound like the elements for a crazy, unpredictable movie, but Domino doesn't play that way. Scott's flashy style is an extreme approach to filmmaking, but it's radical in the least interesting sense, sucking the flavor from its component parts. In one scene, Knightley pouts as the scenery explodes around her, then spouts some pseudo-philosophical nonsense via voiceover. Then this happens again, until, eventually, the credits roll. Even Walken, the savior of so many bad movies, is just another image to be chopped up and processed. If he knew how to explode, Scott might know how to make better use of him.