At this particular second, I'm not sure how to start this review, so I'll just start flinging out some basics and see where things go from there. In general, I liked the film. It's hyperkinetic, visually crazy, and gives the impression that the cameraman is trying like hell to swat a bee that has gotten inside his own eyeball. It has a wee bit more plot than is truly necessary. Some parts don't work. Some do. Keira Knightly is pretty cute, except for that damned navel piercing, an ugly fad which I fucking hate to death. A few tangents make headlong charges at cliffs and fall right the hell off. All in no particular order.
"All in no particular order" could also be used to describe the unfolding of the events in the film, which starts near the end and hops backwards through events in a piecemeal fashion, leaving gaps which it will then later circle back to fill. The story is based loosely on the real-life story of professional model-turned-bounty-hunter Domino Harvey. Loosely, in the sense that if it was applied to a hangman's noose, the condemned man would hit the ground running. The real-life equivalents of two characters who don't survive the movie show up in the DVD extras, so don't expect anything approaching a bio-pic. (Ironically, Domino herself, who does survive the movie, didn't outlive its production in real life, dying of an overdose at the age of 35.) What we have instead is a convoluted crime caper in the vein of Snatch, minus the humor. Mostly at least. Where humor does come in, it's generally in the mode of something extrememly violent that's portrayed as over-the-top and ridiculous, like the mistaken removal by shotgun of a man's arm. Those wacky misunderstandings. It might seem utterly brutal and off-putting in a film that felt less hallucinogenic, but the film is so extremely stylized that connecting with anyone on a really personal level isn't really on the menu to begin with. The plot's major linchpin, a sick child in need of an expensive life-saving operation, seems calculated to lend some sense of warmth and humanity, but comes off as a bit too obvious and manipulative to truly be effective as anything other than another piece of the puzzle. And there are many pieces. Like, really.
The screenplay was written by Richard Kelly, most known for Donnie Darko, a sci-fi-in-suburbia yarn of questionable coherency. Out of all the films he's written (which includes the absolutely maddening clusterfuck of go-nowhere excess Southland Tales), I find this one to be his most entertaining, largely because it's the one story he's written that actually is comprehensible via nothing more than the information given in the narrative itself. Like his other scripts, however, he gives too much information, including much that we don't really need, which is fine if you're fleshing out a thin story, less so if you're dealing with one which has to go the route of video flow charts to keep us apprised of who's doing what to whom. The framing device of Domino being interrogated by Lucy Liu really doesn't add anything at all to the plot, and seems just to be an excuse to justify the voice-over, though most of it sounds as if it's directed at the viewer, and not at Liu's character at all. Equally dubious in necessity is a subplot about a proposed reality television series that follows Domino and her fellow bounty hunters around, and is hosted by two former actors from Beverly Hills 90210. This too appears as if it could be lifted straight out with no damage to the plot structure. I assume it's some sort of satire on Hollywood or reality TV in general, or perhaps just a comedic touch; it's likely that I'm missing the joke on account of never having seen a single episode of 90210 ever. I had to double-check IMDB to confirm that Brian and Ian were actually real people and not invented characters. Most everything else fits, and, for an action-adventure genre pic, it does require one to keep their attentions focused most than most films of this sort. Anyone who fails to do so is going to be hopelessly left behind, like all those sinners in those shitty Left Behind movies.
Tony Scott's own excesses with the printing and cutting and multiple exposures match the script in intensity, resulting in a veritable sensory overload of a film that should probably be avoided by anyone even vaguely epileptic. There's something to be said for trying something new, though it sometimes works against the whole. Late in the picture, there's a mescaline-induced drug trip scene which is almost humourously indistinguishable from what comes before and after it. As exhuberant eye candy goes, Domino is a great success, largely in that it demands that you not turn your brain off first. Still, I hope that eventually Richard Kelly finds a way to add "meaning" into a film by some means other than a glaze of pandering religious proselytizing. Sometimes (make that "always") a dead fish is just a dead fish, and a prognosticating Tom Waits is just more of that mescaline trickling through.
-review by Matt Murray