December 8th, 2005 Film, Film Reviews, Xpress

Directed by Tony Scott

Written by Richard Kelly

Starring Keira Knightley, Michey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez, Christopher Walken, Mena Suvari, Ian Ziering, Brian Austin Green, Delroy Lindo, Macy Gray, Dabney Coleman, Lucy Liu

Plenty of former filmmakers with distinctive and fresh voices are quickly swallowed up by the Hollywood system. John Singleton started off with Boyz N the Hood and ended up doing Shaft, 2 Fast 2 Furious and a host of other market-friendly tat. Last year’s indie scene golden boy — Zach Braff of Garden State fame — is about to appear as voice talent in Disney’s Chicken Little.

And now Richard Kelly, the wunderkind who bought us the coolest cult hit of the 21st century in Donnie Darko, turns up writing a script for whiplash action director Tony Scott? What next — David Lynch doing the next American Pie?

If Kelly had written the script and then Scott had come aboard you could almost imagine the movie it would have been. But the plot thickens — Scott was interested in Domino Harvey’s story as far back as ten years ago, and only felt the script had been nailed when Kelly had a crack at it.

It’s a wonder it took so long to get to the screen. The idea of a former model becoming a professional bounty hunter would be too delicious for marketing executives to pass up. What better excuse for a babe carrying guns and dressing like a commando — it actually happened!

It happened to a point, anyway. Scott himself gives you a sly wink when the opening credits tells us the film’s based on a true story’ sort of. He’s here to take you on a highly stylised version of Harvey’s life, and with Knightley’s extremely photogenic features and his own acid trip visuals, it’s not what you’d call Cinema Verite.

We meet Domino beaten up and fag in hand being interviewed by Lucy Liu’s buttoned down FBI psychologist. Something’s gone down involving a $10 million loot, a double cross, and the very shady customers who populate LA’s underworld. A former spoilt model, Domino’s fallen into bounty hunting almost by mistake after attending a seminar on being a bail bondsman and falling in with tough hombres Choco (Ramirez) and Ed (Rourke).

The plot is — in a word — unexpected. It veers off alternately into self-parody territory about a reality TV show and a mystery about a fake license racket at the California Department of Motor Vehicles and an armoured car heist with one riddle after another clouding the truth.

Throw in a billionaire hotelier with ties to the mob and a righteous black woman calling on the government to recognize her mixed race labels on Jerry Springer and it’s bound to get messy. Unfortunately it’ll end up just as messy for most of the audience, who’ll lose track completely by about two thirds of the way through.

It was probably quite a straight mystery story as Kelly wrote it, but in the hands of cinema’s original crash-zoom-as-political-allegory director Scott, the storytelling is the excuse for a visual and aural assault, and vice versa. He loves camera and sound filters, floating subtitles and visual embellishments and for the first time, they completely overshadow the story.

Scott’s last effort, Denzel Washington revenge drama Man on Fire used similar trickery, but the story was solid and the characters were alive. If you wanted to look past the saturated colours and flying handheld cameras you could. Domino makes it impossible.

Most of the young directors who emulate the music video style nowadays cut their teeth on videos or cool TV ads. Scott had it down pat before TVC and music video kids even wanted to direct movies — he showed them all how to do it during the days of Beverley Hills Cop II, Top Gun and Days of Thunder in between truckloads of coke and hookers with bad boy producer Don Simpson.

It’s a shock to see Keira Knightley shift so dramatically after the feminine roles she excels in, most recently in Pride and Prejudice, and she only sells it to some degree — sometimes she seems less a tough bounty hunter and a more a little girl playing dress-ups.

And in the most ironic twist, the real Domino Harvey — facets of whose life Kelly and Scott ignored to make the film — was found dead in a bathtub after overdosing on painkillers just prior to the US release.

In the film, Domino’s mother, played by Jacqueline Bisset, urges her not to take part in the exploitative reality TV show (hosted by former stars of Beverley Hills 90210, no less) because they won’t tell her story right. Stories have circulated that the real Domino complained of exactly that to Scott and the friendship they’d built up deteriorated. Truth may be stranger than fiction yet.

Full client and publication list:

  • 3D Artist
  • APC
  • Auscam
  • Australian Creative
  • Australian Macworld
  • Australian Way (Qantas)
  • Big Issue
  • Black Velvet Seductions
  • Black+White
  • Bookseller & Publisher
  • Box Magazine
  • Brain World
  • Business News
  • Business NSW
  • Campaign Brief
  • Capture
  • Cleo
  • Cosmos
  • Cream
  • Curve
  • Daily Telegraph
  • Dark Horizons
  • Dazed and Confused
  • Desktop
  • DG
  • Digital Media
  • Disney Magazine
  • DNA Magazine
  • Empire
  • Empty Magazine
  • Famous Monsters of Filmland
  • Fast Thinking
  • FHM UK
  • Film Stories
  • Filmink
  • Follow Gentlemen
  • Geek Magazine
  • Good Reading
  • Good Weekend
  • GQ
  • How It Works
  • Hydrapinion
  • Inside Film
  • Loaded
  • M2 Magazine
  • Marie Claire Australia
  • Marketing
  • Maxim Australia
  • Men's Style
  • Metro
  • Moviehole
  • MSN
  • Nine To Five
  • Paranormal
  • PC Authority
  • PC Powerplay
  • PC Update
  • PC User
  • PC World
  • Penthouse
  • People
  • Pixelmag
  • Popular Science
  • Post Magazine
  • Ralph
  • Reader's Digest
  • ScienceNetwork WA
  • SciFiNow
  • Scoop
  • Scoop Traveller
  • Seaside Observer
  • SFX
  • Sydney Morning Herald
  • The Australian
  • The Retiree
  • The Sun Herald
  • The West Australian
  • TimeOut
  • Total Film
  • Video Camera
  • Video&Filmmaker
  • Writing Magazine
  • Xpress
  • Zoo