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Domino Review

By Shawn McKenzie 10/15/2005

While watching the screening of Domino, I kept thinking about how creative the movie was, and that I believe that other critics, and especially the movie going public, will see that.  I don’t know about the public, but apparently I was wrong about the appeal of the movie to other critics.  I will state that this critic loved it.

Domino Harvey (Keira Knightley) is a professional bounty hunter, but she didn’t start out that way.  As she talks to FBI criminal psychologist Taryn Miles (Lucy Liu), Domino tells her story while in police custody (she is pretty banged up…I don’t know why they couldn’t have gotten her a wet towel to clean herself up.)  She was the rich daughter of Hollywood English actor Laurence Harvey (Jesse Pate) and Vogue model turned socialite Sophie Wynn (Jacqueline Bisset.)  When she was a little girl, Domino (Tabitha Brownstone, Domino at age 8) had a goldfish that died, followed by her father in 1973.  She learned to not be emotionally invested in people, because they will let you down.  She rebelled against her mother and her “90210 world,” and she trained herself in martial arts and nunchucks.  She had a brief career as a model, but she found it boring.  She also was expelled from college after breaking the nose of a fellow sorority girl (Brianna Konefall) who insulted her.  One day, Domino sees an ad in the newspaper about a seminar for bounty hunters, hosted by bail bondsman Claremont Williams (Delroy Lindo.)  During the seminar, Claremont’s associates, Ed Mosbey (Mickey Rourke) and Choco (Edgar Ramirez), skip out with the seminar participants’ money.  She follows them, throws a knife through the front window of their car, and tells them that she wants to work for them…because she wants to have a little fun.  Choco is hesitant at first, but Ed thinks that bringing her on with them will help them.  The team now includes Ed, Choco, Domino, and their Afghani driver Alf (Rizwan Abessi), an explosives expert whom they call the “cat eating alien” because they can’t pronounce his full name.  They become a great team at tracking down fugitives, and they don’t always use their guns.  At one point, Domino gives one fugitive named Hector Maldonado (Michael Gonzalez) a lapdance so that she can get some information out of him.  The team becomes one of L.A.’s most successful bounty hunter teams, and Domino herself is awarded “Bounty Hunter of the Year” at an awards ceremony.  At that same ceremony, Kimmie (Mena Suvari), the assistant to TV reality show producer Mark Heiss (Christopher Walken), approaches them to pitch a reality TV show for the WB network featuring the team and their adventures.  It will be called “Bounty Squad” (though they originally wanted to call it “Domino,” but the team objected to that idea) and “Beverly Hills 90210” alums Ian Ziering (playing himself) and Brian Austin Green (also playing himself) would host it.  The pilot episode follows them on their latest assignment…finding a team of robbers, who call themselves The First Ladies (they wear the masks of the First Ladies), that robbed an armored car containing $10 million from Stratosphere casino owner Drake Bishop (Dabney Coleman.)  Supposedly, The First Ladies consist of brothers Francis (Kel O’Neill) and Charles “Chuckie” Cigliutti (Frederick Koehler), Lester Kincaid (T.K. Carter), and Howie Stein (Charles Paraventi.)  What Domino’s team doesn’t know is that the heist by The First Ladies was arranged by Claremont, along with Bishop’s attorney Burke Beckett (Peter Jacobson), to help Claremont’s mistress Lateesha Rodriguez (Mo’Nique) and her sick granddaughter.  Lateesha and twin sisters Lashandra (Macy Gray) and Lashindra Davis (Shondrella Avery), along with their gay friend Raul Chavez (Joseph Nunez), run a fake I.D. business out of the Department of Motor Vehicles, but she needs the $300,000 commission for the fugitive retrieval to pay for a surgery for her daughter Kee Kee’s (Ashley Monique Clark) daughter’s operation.  The Bounty Squad team gets into a bit of trouble when it is found out that Francis and Chuckie are the sons of mob boss Anthony Cigliutti (Stanley Kamel.)  In a jumbled sequence of circumstances, it involves the team tracking down Locus Fender (Lew Temple) and his mother Edna (Dale Dickey), a couple of suspects who are assumed to be storing the stolen money.  They are also arrested at one point by FBI agents Eric Cosgrove (Adam Clark) and Dina Wilson (Donna Scott.)  Along with some mystifying and confusing advice from a wanderer (gravelly-voiced singer Tom Waits) out in the desert, Domino knows that her survival is a 50-50 chance.

From the cool opening titles, to the last shot of the real Domino Harvey, this movie impressed me.  The way director Tony Scott filmed it turned it from a run-of-the-mill biopic into an exciting action flick.  He gave it a green and yellow tint…kind of how he filmed last year’s Man on Fire (another movie I liked of his.)  Knightley narrated the movie, and most of the narration dialogue sounded like it was done through a telephone.  Normally, that would annoy the heck out of me, but I thought it fit in well with the fast-paced flow of the movie.

I have to address the ton of factual inaccuracies in the movie.  Sophie Wynn, Domino’s mother in the movie, was actually named Paulene Stone in real life (I’m not sure why they changed it.)  There was never a reality show filmed for the WB, and Green and Ziering were never involved in such a project.  According to some of the research I have found, Domino was never a model.  Do I care?  No…I don’t.  I wasn’t expecting a factual biopic.  In fact, Scott purposely pointed out explicitly that this wouldn’t be a “true” story.  In the beginning of the movie, Domino says that this is a true story…sort of.  At the end, she says that if you choose not to believe a word of it, then you can f**k off (her words, not mine.)  I did want to find out if anything was true (hence the research), and found out that probably about 60% of it was fabricated.  The real Domino apparently gave Scott her blessing (though she wanted to film a documentary to go along with the movie before she died this year on June 27 of an overdose of a painkiller called fentanyl), so I am not going to gripe about details.

The cast was perfectly chosen.  Knightley looked like the real Domino, and despite her small muscular frame, she credibly kicked butt.  Rourke always plays the same grungy character, but he does it so well.  Ramirez was okay, but since his character was quiet and confusing, he wasn’t the best thing in the movie (the even more quiet but explosive Abessi as Alf was more interesting.)  Mo’Nique was hilarious in her pointless but hilarious appearance on “The Jerry Springer Show” (with Jerry playing himself.)  The scene where she presented the flowchart of mixed races (blacktino, hispanese, chinegro, etc) resulted in the largest laughs by the preview audience (and I was one of the ones who laughed along with them.)  Green and Ziering were also humorous playing the high-maintenance TV has-beens.  I think that they were real sports making fun of their images.  Walken and Suvari added to the humor as well, going against their types.

Okay…so the other critics didn’t like Domino.  The other critics have never liked Scott’s films, so it’s not a shocker.  This movie was much better in my opinion than its screenwriter Richard Kelly’s cult 2001 hit Donnie Darko (he co-wrote this movie with Steve Barancik though.)  As a moviegoer, are you honestly going to tell me that you haven’t thoroughly enjoyed Scott movies like 1986’s Top Gun, 1991’s The Last Boy Scout, 1993’s True Romance, or 1998’s Enemy of the State?  Who cares what some stuffy critics think…and who cares how accurate this movie is…it’s a biopic that will blow you away and make you have a great time at the theater.


Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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