264 – Domino

Domino Harvey was a high-fashion model (not necessarily a high fashion model) who was bored with life and decided to be a kick-butt bounty hunter, partly to get away from a domineering mother and to escape the long shadow of her father, the late actor Laurence Harvey.

Domino (Keira Knightley) tells her story in a flashback to an inquiring FBI psychologist (Lucy Liu). Domino’s been captured by the Feds in a bounty hunt gone terribly awry. Cooly smoking a cigarette, with blood dripping from her nose and mouth, Domino decides to answer all of the shrink’s questions. Time for full disclosure.

Domino explains how she got bored with hanging around her pool in Beverly Hills, how she detested the “perfect” culture in southern California (especially the show Beverly Hills 90210), and how she especially hated joining a tony sorority. No, the life of the privileged wasn’t one for Domino. So she became a bounty hunter.

The two other members of her team are Ed (Mickey Rourke) and Choco (Edgar Ramirez), two mean-looking, tough-acting hombres who can and do shoot and kill as easily as you or I might butter a slice of bread. But they – and Domino – manage somehow to get the job done, jobs funneled to them by bail bondsman Claremont Williams (Delroy Lindo). But then one of Claremont’s mistresses’ granddaughter is dying, and she needs a superexpensive operation, so Claremont hatches some kind of scheme to rob an armored car and then return the money minus a finder’s fee.

Which is briefly why Domino finds herself in an interrogation room with Lucy Liu. Lucy Liu with her calm demeanor that’s meant to get under your skin. It seems that Domino’s future is at least partly up to this psychologist, but the scenes are really just a device to relate Domino’s experiences to the viewer.

Knightley seems an odd casting choice, but it’s a fair assumption that the real Domino Harvey had a similar body build. Knightley is tall with big, dark eyes, and she sure isn’t muscular, about what you’d expect a fashion model to look like. (I think she goes a tad overboard with the eye makeup, but what do I know?)

The film moves along at a frantic pace, with scenes sometimes a little out of chronological sequence, the better to distract the viewer from a rather straightforward plot. The producers threw in a made-up subplot involving counterfeit DMV identifications to spice thing up a bit (tying it with the armored-car plot, too). So there are double crosses and setups and all manner of untrustworthy behavior.

In the end, though, I didn’t learn a heck of a lot about Domino other than the more superficial of descriptions. If the title character had not been a true-life person (the real Domino died in 2005), the movie would have felt pedestrian, even mundane. Domino Harvey surely led a fascinating life, and we do get a glimpse into it, but it’s only a brief glimpse that focuses on one, career-ending caper (or is it?), making the movie much more sound and fury than one that concentrates on character and plot development.

I know, I know, Shakespeare it’s not supposed to be. But I didn’t want it to be – I wanted panache, verve, and sizzle, and I got one dimensionality and fizzle. Here’s a question for you. Sure, Domino is good at nunchucks, and we do get to see her use them once. But that’s about it. She doesn’t typically use a gun, and she’s not strong enough to beat a bounty into submission. So what’s her big talent that makes her such a viable part of the team?

Oh, that’s right. Sex appeal. In one memorable early scene, she offers a lapdance to bad guys in order to get information. Sure, that’d happen in real life. You have ten guns aimed at her, and you’re going to give her information for a lapdance that you can get anyway at the local strip club? Okay.

So, bottom line – Knightley’s cute, but she doesn’t quite have the screen presence to sufficiently dominate (pardon the pun) the movie; at no point was I really convinced she could kick my ass. Which would make her a pretty poor bounty hunter indeed.

Domino: **1/2

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