"Domino" begins with the statement "based on a true story… sort of." These words permeate the rest of the film with a hyper realism that only Tony Scott would be brave enough to attempt in such a boldly raucous manner. The film is a cinematic pastiche, full of kinetic energy that never lets up, not even for a second. As played by Keira Knightley, Domino Harvey is as brazen as the film itself. It's a shame, however, that what's on screen is little more than a shattered reflection of a fascinating individual. That's not to say that there aren't intriguing character moments, there are, but these moments are just as laden with the same inspired frenzy as the rest of the film and prove maddening at times. "Domino" suffers from, and is equally enlivened by, what seems like a severe case of ADD laced with acid.
Scott has become more abrasive with his aesthetic experimentation. This latest foray is a more galvanized mixture of "True Romance", "Man on Fire" and "Beat the Devil", his entry into the BMW short films series. The look is quite amazing; he speeds the camera up, slows it down, saturates colors, uses various forms of cross processing, all to achieve a style that is extremely expressive of the various characters' emotions. Sometimes it's a rousing success, while at others it becomes a text book case of style over substance.
The story, as written by "Donnie Darko" writer-director Richard Kelly is as frenetic as the film's visual style. The titular Domino Harvey (Knightley), daughter of actor Laurence Harvey (best known for his work in "The Manchurian Candidate" opposite Frank Sinatra) and Vogue model Paulene Stone (renamed Sophie Wynn for the film and played by Jacqueline Bisset) is born into a life of wealth and privilege. When her father dies at a young age, Domino's mother sends her to boarding school, where she begins to rebel early on. Her mother pushes Domino to find more "normal" things to become involved with. One such thing is joining a sorority in college, where she ultimately gives a sorority sister an impromptu nose job, which quickly gets Domino kicked out of school. She soon begins working as a model, which doesn't last long either.
Through these early years she picks up a fondness for violence, particularly fist fighting, throwing knives and nunchaku (which Knightley wields rather impressively). In an ultimate act of rebellion, Domino becomes a bounty hunter and hooks up with a team consisting of the wonderfully colorful Choco (Edgar Ramierez), who speaks in unintelligible Spanish half the time, even though he speaks fluent English, and the archetypical tough guy Ed Mosby (Mickey Rourke). Both men are played with such irreverent macho bravado that it practically seeps off the screen.
The trio quickly becomes the most successful and infamous group of bounty hunters in Los Angeles, no doubt, in part, due to Domino's upbringing. Veering off the true to life road, they sign up to become the stars of a reality television series that revolves around their careers as bounty hunters. In reality the show never existed and it almost feels that this device was employed so Christopher Walken could have a small part as the network executive in charge of the show. He's in true self parody form here and adds a nice touch of humor to an otherwise gritty, yet over the top film. All of this is grounded by an interrogation being conducted between Domino and an FBI profiler, played to cold perfection by Lucy Liu.
The film carries itself with a wispy air of self-reflexivity that is sometimes self indulgent but always with a confident tongue in cheek demeanor. The story scurries around in time, jumping back and forth from events in what at first feels out of place but lends itself to a chaotic sense of order that actually works. Kelly balances Domino's story with equal doses of true life inspiration and overzealous bends of fiction that feel like an ethereal fever dream. It's this balance or imbalance, rather, which makes it difficult to tell Domino's story. There is a fair amount of voice over narration that really does add to what's being seen and Domino comes across as a truly fascinating individual, but one that always seems to be an arm's length away. Domino's journey is full of so much promise and possibility it's a shame that it ultimately never goes anywhere, but frankly it is one hell of a ride.
The DVD is presented in Widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The transfer looks awesome. Colors really pop off the screen and considering the amount of saturation employed throughout, it's a pleasure to see such vibrancy come through. Blacks are very deep and dark, whereas whites are very bright and rich. It's a very beautiful looking film and considering its rich visual nature, the DVD gives it a more than worthy presentation.
Audio is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1, a DTS ES 6.1 and Dolby Stereo 2.0 soundtrack. The 6.1 mix pounds with the same fervor as the film's visuals. There is no distortion present anywhere. Voices come through crisply and clearly and music pulsates through every speaker when necessary. Sound effects are directional and come through the various speakers as dictated by the film. English and Spanish subtitles are also presented. To say the least, the film sounds great.
"I am a Bounty Hunter: Domino Harvey's Life" is a 20 minute featurette, which offers an up-close and personal interview with the real Domino Harvey and a glimpse at some of the behind the scenes work on the film. It's an interesting, though much too brief, look at the real life Domino, who died just before the film was to be released. The featurette contains brief chats with Domino, Knightly, Scott, Kelly and others involved in the making of the film. There is also an optional commentary/interview between Richard Kelly and the real Domino Harvey.
"Bounty Hunting on Acid: Tony Scotts Visual Style" is a short look at he techniques Scott employed in the making of the film. Scott and cinematographer Dan Mindel discuss the various methods they used in achieving the films unique look. It's all very technical stuff and a little more explanation may have helped to gain a better understanding of the processes Scott used but it's worth checking out.
The DVD features an audio commentary with Tony Scott and Richard Kelly. It's your typical behind the scenes talk surrounding the film, discussing various points in the fictional film versus the reality of Domino's life. It's interesting on the whole. Kelly and Scott do not, however, do their commentaries together. A second audio commentary is also featured, consisting of script notes, story development meetings with Scott, Kelly and Tom Waits.
Seven deleted and alternate scenes are included, clocking in at around 8 minutes. There are a few interesting things, particularly an amusing cut scene in a counselor's office between Domino, her mother and the college counselor. Optional commentary by Tony Scott for each scene is also available.
Rounding out the extras are a teaser trailer, theatrical trailer and sneak peeks at other upcoming New Line releases.
"Domino" is by no means a great achievement in filmmaking. However, Scott, Kelly and Knightley give us an intensely electric film about the life of an enthralling individual. The film is very compelling and often times beautiful because of its visual style, but it sometimes slips into frustratingly vapid monotony because of a story that never quite grips the viewer. It features a wonderful cast, interesting set pieces and a great lead, who, unfortunately, seems to get lost amidst the madness.