Saturday, October 15, 2005

Reel To Reel:

How It Rates: **1/2
Starring: Keria Knightley, Lucy Liu
Rated: R
Red Flags: Graphic sex, language and violence

Domino could -- and should -- be used to teach film students the wonder of editing on an Avid, and the potential for going overboard with it. The picture is a two-hour rock video comprised of quick cuts, sped-up and slowed-down shots, grainy footage, CGI and just about anything that looks cool.

Cool it is. Cohesive it isn't. Watching Domino is like opening a novel to the middle, jumping back to the beginning, and then leaping forward to the end after you've spilled coffee on the pages. Flashback and fast-forward storytelling works if it underscores the drama (note The Godfather Part II) but here it adds needless complexity to a hybrid of caper film and shoot-'em-up.

Knightly plays the title character, the daughter of a wealthy British family. She is still smarting from the death of her father when she was a child. She simmers with resentment against her mother for uprooting her to Beverly Hills and a phony 90210 lifestyle. Yet she somehow becomes a model, only to dump it for a job more in tune with her rebel nature: bounty hunting. After all, she's been practicing with nunchuks as a girl. She teams up with Ed (Mickey Rourke), a grizzled pro; Choco (Edgar Ramirez), who knows English just fine but likes to speak Spanish only around women; and Alf (Rizwan Abbasi), an Afghan who could've been a suicide bomber in another life.

Domino revolves around a bounty hunting operation gone sideways. Millions of dollars disappears from the Stratosphere Casino in Vegas and Domino's team is sent to grab the crooks and return the loot. Why not call the police? Ahh, that's because things are a little complicated. The money, the crooks and the people associated with them aren't all they're cracked up to be, and hence the story takes as many loops and curves as the Catalina Highway up Mt. Lemmon. And to top it off, the bounty hunters are being followed by a reality-TV crew.

Domino narrates the story herself, as she recalls what went wrong for a police shrink (Liu). I had some sympathy for the title character, but a lot of it got tangled in the film's stylistic devices, including a coin flip to illustrate how life and death is a 50-50 chance for anybody. Given Domino's resourcefulness, I would think the odds would be more in her favor.

Director Tony Scott (brother of Ridley Scott) borrows many techniques from his 2004 film Man On Fire, including the use of floating subtitles to highlight key words and phrases. But that film had restraint. Here, the MTV factor takes over when it didn't need to, as if the story of a model turned bounty hunter needed to amped up more.

It didn't. Domino is based (sort of, the film says) on the real-life Domino Harvey, daughter of actor Laurence Harvey. Domino died earlier this year at 35 of an apparent overdose. Make up your own sick jokes about whether it was sensory overload after viewing parts of this film.

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