- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 13, 2005

Having assaulted the public with “Man on Fire,” which unleashed Denzel Washington as a bodyguard at war with the Mexican underworld, director Tony Scott now perpetrates, with “Domino,” a distaff variation that might as well be called “Baby Doll Ablaze.”

Confined mostly to a depraved Los Angeles-Las Vegas corridor, this hellbent criminal spectacle purports to memorialize the misspent life of a prodigal, Domino Harvey. The subject died of a drug overdose a few months ago at age 35. She was awaiting trial on a federal narcotics rap.

Portrayed by a willowy, surly and pretty much engulfed-and-devoured Keira Knightley, Domino was the daughter of actor Laurence Harvey, who died in 1973 when he was 45 and Domino was 4 — or 8, according to one of the minor exaggerations in Richard Kelly’s ultra-berserk screenplay, a biographical fantasia that achieves such lurid consistency under Mr. Scott’s relentless whip hand that nothing you see or hear appears credible.

“Domino” unravels in bewildering, cynical and sensationalistic flashbacks, grounded in the interrogation of the doomed heroine by an FBI agent played by Lucy Liu. The episodes revel in contemptuous posturing of one sort or another; they culminate in the glorification of a sinister, dissolute period in the 1990s when Domino joined a team of bounty hunters.

Mickey Rourke, looking like an embodiment of the badlands, is cast as Domino’s mentor, felon-chaser Ed Moseby, the favorite bloodhound of a prominent L.A. bail bondsman called Claremont Williams (Delroy Lindo). Overcommitted professionally and privately, Claremont implicates everyone in a calamitous, convoluted armored-car heist.

During a lunatic escapade, the entire Moseby team (which includes a crazed ex-con called Choco, played by Edgar Ramirez, and a crazed Afghani driver played by Riz Abassi) survives a van crash while motoring under the influence of mescaline-laced coffee. When this mishap proves a trifle, they head for an apocalyptic showdown in the penthouse of a Vegas casino-hotel called the Stratosphere.

The screenwriter has testified that he exploited Domino’s nomadic and precarious life as the pretext for a “punk-rock fever dream.” The director does nothing to temper this hyperbolic conception. On the contrary, he’s working up an insufferable sweat trying to trump it with images evidently mistaken for the film and video equivalent of action painting. Every shot reflects a livid, hallucinatory outlook. If there’s an uncoerced perspective or realistic color scheme in the picture, I must have winced it away in the enveloping glare and grunge.

Domino is depicted as a privileged delinquent and dropout while growing up sociopathic, first in England and then in Beverly Hills, where her fortune-hunting and often absent mother (an unflattering role for Jacqueline Bisset) resettles. The filmmakers portray Domino as contemptuous of Hollywood inducements, especially if they originate with the TV industry. One subplot mocks a reality series purportedly based on the Moseby team. The best excuse for this whopper is that it gets Christopher Walken into the rogue’s gallery (as a producer).

The movie creates a disreputable edifice around its notion of Domino as a disreputable thrill-seeker. There are curious, would-be poignant lapses: She’s soft on pet goldfish and memories of Daddy, invoked in a couple of clips from “The Manchurian Candidate.”

It doesn’t take long to despise the blend of prurient, vicious and opportunistic motives that discredit this monstrosity. Lashed to the mast of their own excesses, the filmmakers plow on for 128 minutes. That makes for a very long and alienating fever dream.

1/2*

TITLE: “Domino”

RATING: R (Systematic depiction of social depravity; frequent profanity, graphic violence and simulated drug use; occasional nudity and sexual candor)

CREDITS: Directed by Tony Scott. Screenplay by Richard Kelly. Cinematography by Daniel Mindel. Production design by Chris Seagers. Costume design by B. Music by Harry Gregson-Williams.

RUNNING TIME: 128 minutes

WEB SITE: www.dominomovie.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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