Director and writer miss mark in telling bounty hunter's tale

MovieReviewC

October 14, 2005|By MICHAEL SRAGOW | MICHAEL SRAGOW,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

The conflict between a woman's inner good girl and inner bad girl is a great movie subject. Unfortunately, it remains untapped in Domino, the "inspired-by-fact" story of a ferocious female bounty hunter who in the end displays a heart of tarnished gold.

Domino (Keira Knightley), the daughter of a British movie star, Laurence Harvey (Room at the Top, The Manchurian Candidate), and a London model (played by Jacqueline Bisset), chucks pampering and privilege to grab fugitives and bail-jumpers off the mean streets and out of the crummy motels and trailer parks of the American West.

The early death of her father traumatizes her. The empty rituals and cushy pettiness of well-heeled schools and sororities repulse her. She decides that life is a coin toss: heads you live and tails you die (or maybe vice versa). She rejects the posh L.A. lifestyle of her mom; at a time when Beverly Hills, 90210 is all the rage, she hates anything "90210." She adopts an existence that's like an extreme sport played 24/7 or a street-shooting video game in which the bullets are real.

Richard Kelly's preposterous script connects her downfall to a TV reality show, The Bounty Squad - hosted, hilariously, by two faded stars from Beverly Hills, 90210. When one of them asks Domino if her bad-girl thing is a pose, she breaks his nose. Does that mean it isn't a pose, or merely that she's willing to back up her pose with muscle?

Screenwriter Kelly is too busy to provide an answer. Instead he relates a convoluted caper involving Vegas, the Mafia and its collegiate sons, and a high-powered bail bondsman (the fierce and shrewd Delroy Lindo) who employs moonlighters from California's Department of Motor Vehicles.

Tony Scott, the director, is too busy trying to up the adrenaline level, since adrenaline is all he understands about Domino. He puts together the action as if he were shuffling twin decks of psychedelic flash cards. You feel as if you're seeing everything twice - or as if you're having a drug flashback to what happened a half-hour before. The main action makes no mention of the real-life Domino's 15-year history of drug addiction, though she died from an overdose of the painkiller fentanyl.

The incredible cast includes Christopher Walken - weirdly droll, as always, as a TV producer who says he has "font issues" - Mena Suvari, Lucy Liu, Dabney Coleman and T.K. Carter. And there's also Mickey Rourke, who plays the grizzled leader of Domino's three-man, one-woman smash-and-grab team as if he were the once and future king of grunge. But the movie doesn't allow the actors to generate any steam, erotic or otherwise, not even between Domino and the male bounty hunter who loves her (Edgar Ramirez).

In an outrageous stroke of fiction, Domino defuses a showdown with a lap dance, but it's neither persuasive nor a turn-on - it's not even matter-of-fact funny. Domino should have been a terrific anti-heroine, but the movie never gets deep enough inside this walking time bomb to reveal what makes her tick.

michael.sragow@baltsun.com

Domino (New Line Cinema)

Starring Keira Knightley.

Directed by Tony Scott.

Rated R.

Time 128 minutes.

Review C

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