Nothing says dubious entertainment more than a film that opens with the caveat: "Inspired by a true story ... sort of." And having granted itself license to be ridiculous, Tony Scott's flashy action flick, Domino, about real-life bounty hunter Domino Harvey, heads straight for the cheap seats, delivering a chaotic swirl of fact and fiction, punctuated with rizz-razz editing, wobbly camerawork and plenty of filler.
Scott leaves no hyper-action-comedy cliché behind -- from stunt-casting musicians and adding meta-reality celebrity riffs to that preferred expository fallback -- the narrative told in flashback. Plus, ya got yer boobs, brawn and shit blowin' up. Vintage rides. Las Vegas. Acid trips. And the celebrated kings of B-dom: Mickey Rourke, Delroy Lindo and Christopher Walken. Forced to compete with all this distracting extra entertainment is our titular heroine.
Domino Harvey, the daughter of English actor Laurence Harvey, dropped her birthright of the glamorous high life for a career bounty-hunting in L.A.'s tough hoods. Keira Knightley takes a deep breath and makes a run at portraying Harvey: She smudges her makeup, chain-smokes and struts her rangy self -- but it's hard to wipe away the English rose. Scott's film glamorizes Domino in easy, pin-up fetish respects -- her beauty; her take-no-shit, balls-to-the wall attitude; her facility with weapons -- while glossing over what appears to be a conflicted, painful life.
But this ain't no character study. Instead Scott teams Domino with two compadres (Rourke and Edgar Ramirez) and sets them to kicking ass within an increasingly convoluted story that manages to drag in the Department of Motor Vehicles, the mob, a reality-TV show, an FBI sting, assorted trailer trash -- and that's not even counting the bounty crew's various narratives. Scott's formula seems to be that the faster he edits this stuff together, the less time we'll have to worry that none of it is making much sense.
Throughout, Domino begs the question of why even bother with a "real-life story" if you're gonna veer off so wildly. Why not do a fictional story about a beautiful chick bounty hunter named "Dice" and go nuts? It's perplexing for the audience, who are left somewhat disconnected wondering what bits are real. (Some are easy: I know for sure that a casino didn't blow up in Las Vegas.)
The most frustrating thing is that Harvey's actual story was singular and intriguing. So why gimmick it up with B-movie cheese? We'll get no rebuttal from Harvey. Despite the film's upbeat conclusion, Harvey died of a drug overdose in June, after being charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, having apparently become the sort of sleazeball she famously used to track down. Now, that's an interesting ending.