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"DOMINO"
(2005) (Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Action/Drama: While being profiled by a reality TV crew, a bounty hunter and her companions get in over their heads when they try to track down those responsible for an armored car heist that eventually involves the mob, the FBI and more.
PLOT:
While being interrogated by FBI criminal psychologist Taryn Miles (LUCY LIU), professional bounty hunter Domino Harvey (KEIRA KNIGHTLEY) tells her tale. It ranges from being the rich daughter of later Hollywood actor Laurence Harvey and model turned socialite Pauline Stone (JACQUELINE BISSET) who then rebelled against authority and gave up modeling to work for bail bondsman Claremont Williams (DELROY LINDO).

With partners Ed (MICKEY ROURKE), Choco (EDGAR RAMIREZ) and driver Alf (RIZWAN ABBASI), the quartet is highly proficient at tracking down fugitives. They're so good, in fact, that they've drawn the attention of TV producer Mark Heiss (CHRISTOPHER WALKEN) who has his assistant, Kimmie (MENA SUVARI), gather them together to pitch a reality TV show featuring them and their exploits.

Named "The Bounty Squad" and hosted by Beverly Hills 90210's Ian Ziering (HIMSELF) and Brian Austin Green (HIMSELF), the show follows them on their latest case, finding those responsible for robbing an armored car working for casino owner Drake Bishop (DABNEY COLEMAN).

Little do any of them know, however, that the heist has been arranged by Williams to help his lover Lateesha (MO'NIQUE) and her sick granddaughter, or that it will eventually involve the mob, the FBI and more. As Domino continues telling her tale to Miles, we see what led up to her being in the FBI's custody as everything comes to a head in their most recent case.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
The job of a movie director is to translate the written words of a screenplay into the moving images of a film on the big or small screen. Some do a straightforward job with little to no flourishes, while others -- usually music video veterans -- are all flash over substance. Most fall somewhere in between and use the occasional artistic embellishment, such as to visually represent the state of their protagonist or some other character.

One need only think of scenes designed to represent a drug-induced state for an example of that. Such a moment occurs in "Domino" -- the fictionalized tale of Domino Harvey, daughter of a movie star who became a bounty hunter -- but the film is so over-directed that by the time the drug scene rolls around, it doesn't look any different from the rest of the film.

Of course, when one considers that director Tony Scott is at the helm of this hyper-kinetic mess, that really shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Always one for lots of flashy style -- in earlier films such as "Top Gun" and "Crimson Tide" -- Scott of recent is devolving into a glorified music video director who just so happens to be working on feature length films.

That was apparent in "Man on Fire," a dramatic thriller that would have been decent if not for all of the accompanying but completely unnecessary visual bells and whistles. Yet, that film looks like a staid, period costume drama in comparison to this mess. Yes, Scott has never met a directorial trick he didn't admire, and it seems he's thrown all of them into a mixer, hit "chop" and then waited to see what came out.

All of which is too bad since there's an intriguing story buried somewhere beneath all of the directorial rubble. Born in 1969 to actor Laurence Harvey and supermodel Paulene Stone, she abandoned modeling in favor of hunting down fugitives, a decidedly dangerous occupation. Yet, her demise this past July was not from that, but instead a drug overdose.

Eschewing a traditional biopic, Scott and screenwriter Richard Kelly have taken the basic gist of her life and then fictionalized the rest, resulting in something far less interesting than the real thing. Anytime a film starts with the title card that it's based on a true story, "Sort of..." you know you're in trouble, and that begins with the film's format.

Starting at the end and then flashing back to the events leading up to the title character being investigated by an FBI psychologist -- Lucy Liu in a throwaway role -- the film is almost all exposition. As narrated by the title character - played by Keira Knightley assuming the "tough chick" persona -- we hear and then see the origins and transformation of Domino, the crew she got involved with, and the pivotal case that turned everything upside down.

And all of that's filtered through Scott's constantly moving camera, hand-held close-ups, jump cuts, rapid edits, onscreen titles, unnatural color palettes and much, much more. While I'm guessing some teens might groove on all of the hard-edged style, for everyone else it will be like getting caught in the agitating wash cycle of some out of control washer filled with dirty and unsavory characters and acts.

Kudos or at least a wrist massage should go to editor William Goldenberg who might not have been able to fix this mess with his cutting efforts, but certainly gave Scott his money's worth with the hundreds if not thousands of edits that flash by from start to finish.

If anything, the film has a good -- and large -- cast, but they all fall in the shadows of Scott's over-direction. Knightley is okay as the title character and fills her with lots of angry and violent spunk, but I never believed her for a moment in the role. Mickey Rourke and Edgar Ramirez play her bounty hunter cohorts, with the former doing his usual thing (which I don't mind) and the latter embodying an interesting character that's never explored to any satisfying degree.

The supporting cast includes the likes of Christopher Walken, Delroy Lindo, Dabney Coleman and even Jacqueline "The Deep" Bisset and while they provide recognizable faces, they're otherwise pretty much limited in what they can do with their parts. A brief laugh comes from Beverly Hills 90210's Ian Ziering and Brian Austin Green playing themselves as hosts of a TV reality show about bounty hunters, but a bit featuring Mo'Nique on the actual Jerry Springer show falls flat on its face.

As does most of the rest of the film that ends up tripping over and then sinking under the weight of all of the directorial flourishes. Tony's production company is called "Scott Free," thus one could only hope you could say the same about his films regarding his "touch" on them. This over-directed mess of a film rates as just a 3 out of 10.




Reviewed September 29, 2005 / Posted October 14, 2005


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