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New Line Home Cinema presents
"This is based on a true story. Sort of."
DVD ReviewMidway through director Tony Scott's action-orgy Domino, the title character, a stunningly beautiful model-turned-bounty hunter, describes a co-worker as having "the attention span of a ferret on methamphetamine." That about sums up the director and the movie, too—watching Domino is exhausting because Scott never rests for a second; the film does everything but punch its audience in the face (and likely only stops there because Scott hasn't figured out a way to turn a visual assault into a physical one).
Domino Harvey was a real person, the daughter of the late actor Lawrence Harvey. She died of an accidental drug overdose last summer, and never saw the movie based on her life. She modeled for a while, and turned to bounty hunting in the early 1990s because she was restless, obsessed with weapons, and apparently had something to prove. If you'd like to know what would drive someone to surrender a privileged existence for a life as a borderline-vigilante, though, this isn't the movie to see. As played by Kiera Knightly, who brings a feisty enthusiasm and little else to the role, Domino is a cipher, all tough bitch catchphrases and posturing. Domino's life should make a great movie someday, but it isn't this one.
Instead, this is a confusing crime caper that involves more grotesque characters than you'll care to know. As it opens, Domino has been arrested, and an FBI agent (Lucy Liu) is asking questions about her part in a crime involving murder, mayhem, and missing millions. Domino proceeds to narrate both the story of her life, and the complexities of the crime in question (they say narration can be a sign of a weak script; what does it mean that Domino has two separate voiceovers by the same character?). The plot jumps back and forth as we see how Domino got into the game and met her boss, Ed (Mickey Rourke), and her partner, Choco (Edgar Ramirez), and how they, her de facto family, got involved in a plot involving fraud at the DMV, paranoid mobsters, the Feds, a fraternity house, a trailer park, severed limbs, robbers dressed as former first ladies, mescaline, wandering prophets, a reality show hosted by former stars of Beverly Hills 90210 (Brian Austin Green and Ian Ziering) and produced by a lunatic (Christopher Walken, making every one of his other performances look positively subdued), lots of guns, and several thousand bullets. Oh, and some explosions, courtesy of a man fighting for a free Afghanistan (progressive!).
That's all well and good and considering that list, it's probably stupid to note the lack of an emotional center (also, emotional depth in general, unless "cool" is now an emotion), and I admit, cult icon Richard Kelly's (Donnie Darko) ludicrously overstuffed script is actually an impressive exercise in go-for-broke pop storytelling. He messes around with time, jumping backwards and forwards and even rewinding entire scenes, and making up for a bunch of stock characters with pulpy dialogue and quirks, not caring whether the story, such as it is, makes any sense. I suppose the conceit is, Domino lived on the edge, so the script should, too. Except without any interesting characters or an narrative through-line, it's just kind of boring, never mind the sex, drugs, and explosions.
If the script is a bit much, in Scott's hands, it becomes way too much. The director builds upon an editorial technique he developed with Enemy of the State and Spy Game, and which reached its zenith with the harrowing revenge thriller Man on Fire. No single shots lasts for more than a few seconds. Sometimes scenes are shown from several different angles in rapid succession, with repeated dialogue for no reason. Subtitles crawl across the screen, but at least there's a reason (Scott thinks it's neat). It's exhausting, an aesthetic I just don't understand; Scott may as well be sitting directly in front of you and constantly turning around to nudge you, pointing out how cool everything looks. He calls it rock n' roll filmmaking, with no style and no rules. I call it a migraine headache waiting to happen.
Admittedly, the film has an energy and a go-for-broke enthusiasm that warrants at least a bit of respect. It took guts for Scott to take $40 million investor dollars and do... this with it. And as attention spans get shorter and shorter, maybe he's actually showing us the future. If so, I guess I'm content that I've grown out of the MTV generation.
Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-
Image Transfer Review: Domino's style transfers quite nicely to DVD, at least. The image is overcooked or washed-out, depending on the scene, and that's just the way it's supposed to look. No use complaining about the intentional grain and color bleeding, because it's all intentional. You won't spot any mastering errors, anyway—the transfer shows no artifacting, aliasing, or obvious edge enhancement.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: Domino is presented in DD 5.1 EX and DTS 6.1 mixes as aurally agressive as the film is visually. Both sounded pretty similar to my ears, and will give your home theater a workout. All the channels are is use constantly, and the surrounds enhance not only the over-the-top action sequences, but quieter moments as well, either pumping out the score or adding in background noise. Through it all, dialogue remains clear, anchored in the center channel. Big, loud, certainly anything but subtle, this is a reference-quality audio presentation.
Audio Transfer Grade: A+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
7 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Tony Scott and writer Richard Kelly
Packaging: Keep Case
Extras Review: As part of the vaunted New Line Platinum Series, Domino includes a good collection of bonus material, including one that's rather unique—in addition to the standard commentary with director Tony Scott and screenwriter Richard Kelly (recorded seperately), there's a second track that is pieced together from script notes and story development meetings with Scott, Kelly, producer Zach Schiff-Abrams, and actor Tom Waits. Hearing some of the behind-the-scenes discussions is kind of interesting, but the material has been heavily edited so as to sound scene-specific, and trying to make out the muffled sound becomes tiring pretty quickly. Still, it's always nice when a DVD tries to do something different.
The featurette I Am a Bounty Hunter: Domino Harvey's Life explores the story behind the film through interviews with the muse herself, the filmmakers, Domino's mother, former model Paulene Stone (who once bought her a bullet-proof vest as a birthday present), the real Choco (who introduced her to "Betsy the shotgun"), and a best friend from childhood who reveals Domino "liked manhandling people from an early age." The piece sort of traces her life story, but though it tells us what she did, it doesn't really tell us why any more than the film does. At the end, there's a coda discussing her July 2005 death, a few months before the film opened. You can also watch the featurette with an alternate audio track of an interview between screenwriter Richard Kelly and Domino, but the recording isn't very good.
Bounty-hunting on Acid (10m:35s) explores the evolution of Domino's (and Tony Scott's) visual style. There are a few snippets of the British TV ads and short films that gave him the freedom to experiment, and cinematographer Dan Mindel discusses all the crazy stuff that was done to the film in-camera to make everything look "like you're on acid." It's all interesting, and proves, at least, that the visual style is daring and inventive whether I think it makes a lick of sense for a feature film or not.
Seven brief deleted scenes, with a total running time of a little over seven minutes, are presented with optional commentary from Scott. They are mostly small scene extensions, nothing too significant, though I suspect a large percentage of the film's fan base will want to watch the alternate take of the desert sex scene.
The disc also includes the teaser and theatrical trailers, which played incessently in theaters and probably did more to hurt the box office than help it. Though I have to say, they represent the movie pretty accurately.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsAn empty-headed, aggressively edited action bipoic, Tony Scott's Domino is an exhaustive assault on the senses first, and a cleverly scripted caper second (a distant second). It's kind of fun when it isn't giving you a migraine, which is infrequently enough that I can't help but wonder if Excedrin bankrolled the whole thing.
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