You know a movie’s in trouble when the best things going for it are cameos by “Beverly Hills 90210” alumni and a former UPN star. The shoot-’em-up contraption “Domino,” one of the year’s worst films, takes the fascinating real-life story of the late model-turned-bounty hunter Domino Harvey and molds it into an exploitative excess of graphic violence, lurid sex and pop-culture sight gags in place of a coherent narrative.
To her credit, Keira Knightley (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) looks great in the title role, but by confusing Domino with the same strong-yet-vulnerable heroine she’s played in previous films (“Pirates,” “King Arthur”), she cuts off any insight into the real Domino. Knightley’s performance, like much of the film, is busy and colorful but completely lacking in substance. Perhaps the shifty camera tricks and jarring editing were intended to hide this, along with the film’s biggest problem – the utterly vacuous screenplay by “Donnie Darko” mind-bender Richard Kelly. Instead of delving into Harvey’s complex and multifaceted life, the movie’s only recurring plotline centers on a severed arm with a combination written on it.
Though director Tony Scott (“Man on Fire”) has said he never intended the film to be an exact biography of Harvey, he didn’t have to turn it into “Bad Boys III.” The film ignores many of the most intriguing parts of Domino’s life, such as her relationship with her father, the late actor Laurence Harvey, and her bisexuality, silenced by a love-story subplot co-starring Spanish actor Edgar Ramirez.
Mickey Rourke (“Sin City”) and Ramirez play Ed and Choco, the rest of Domino’s bounty-hunting family, in functional performances that do what they can with the ultra-thin material. Christopher Walken also makes an appearance as a TV producer tailing the clan, which in turn brings Brian Austin Green and Ian Ziering into the picture as “celebrity” hosts of the reality show. The two former “90210” actors don’t necessarily make “Domino” any better, but it’s a joy simply watching their awkward attempt at ironic acting.
Though the film crowds itself with too many supporting characters and too little logic, comedienne/actress Mo’Nique (TV’s “The Parkers”) proves to be a scene-stealer. Even in the film’s most ridiculous scenes, she is center stage, poignant and often hilarious. Alas, she is wasted in the film, as is Lucy Liu (“Kill Bill Vol. 1”) The University alum gives yet another bitch-ridden performance as the FBI investigator assigned to question Domino.
Even as the movie stretches itself to an unconscionable 127 minutes, we still never really understand Domino, her motives or desires. We do meet a lot of people that she probably met and learn that she gave up her wealth to live as a bounty hunter, but the film’s over-arching superficiality assures that’s all we’ll ever know. Domino’s clandestine mantra is “Heads I live, tails I die.” After a while, you too will hope for sweet salvation.
Rating: 1 star out of 5