The Singing Defective

Washington City Paper | October 14, 2005
Domino Harvey took a less shiny but no more realistic approach to unruly men. At least that’s the case in Domino, Hollywood’s sorta-true version of Harvey’s model-turned-bounty-hunter story. For example, when a couple of grifters take off with her and a classroom full of other toughs’ money instead of delivering a bounty-hunting-for-dummies lecture, the wispy Domino flies out a window, hurls a knife into their windshield, and shrieks, “Where the fuck do you think you’re going? There are people in there expecting a seminar!”

It’s a line that not even Uma Thurman could pull off. But attempted by ingénue Keira Knightley, it’s downright laughable. Luckily for Knightley, though, it’s the only moment that her casting as Domino feels very, very wrong. Under heavy makeup and studded punk-whore wear, she’s as good a stand-in as any young, pretty actress—because between Tony Scott’s infuriating direction and Donnie Darko auteur Richard Kelly’s script (with a story credit going to Steve Barancik, who penned an earlier draft), the movie is less a look at the life of the real Domino Harvey than it is an excuse to deliver another taxingly edgy, needlessly complicated variation on the crooks-and-guns theme.

Domino gets the most interesting part of the story—why Harvey, the recently deceased daughter of actor Laurence Harvey, turned her back on a career as a Ford model to catch criminals—over with quickly. Sure, she’s shown playing with nunchucks as a sullen teenager, then punching her way out of a sorority as a sullen co-ed. And her dad died when she was young, along with her goldfish, so she learned to be cold. But the closest thing we get to a reason for Harvey’s transformation is a shot of a catwalk with the words “I am bored” appearing next to a model. Then the bloody rampages begin.

It’s not the only time Scott, whose last effort was 2004’s Man on Fire, throws words onto the screen, and each time is more random than the last. Mostly, they’re bits of dialogue spelled out as the line is being said, though for variety, sometimes they’re an echo instead. Knightley provides a voice-over that’s occasionally fuzzed out to sound as if she’s, well, phoning it in. And as if all of these puzzling touches weren’t enough, Scott went the extra mile to ensure his movie was unwatchable: Between the constantly moving camera, dizzying in-and-out zooms, and bizarre flashes that accompany both ultraviolent busts and scenes from Harvey’s childhood, Domino is such a mess visually that it almost doesn’t matter whether the script is any good.

For the record, it’s not. Once Domino earns the respect of partners-in-thuggery Ed (Mickey Rourke) and Choco (Edgar Ramirez) after that knife-throwing incident, she joins them on their assignments, leading to a project in which lots of money, some “sassy black women,” and a few mobsters’ sons are involved. The success of the team and the novelty of a gun-toting Barbie gets it a reality show. Worst of all, in the last chapter of this seemingly endless two hours, romance absurdly blooms. If only your head didn’t hurt so much, you’d laugh.CP

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